Since post-production of Blade Runner, seven versions of the film have been known to exist for various reasons. Five versions – the workprint, American theatrical cut, international theatrical cut, Director's Cut, and The Final Cut – have been widely seen. The additional two are the San Diego sneak preview version and the television edit, neither of which have been released on home media or streaming.
The version dubbed the "workprint version" is the oldest-existing cut of Blade Runner. This is an incomplete version of the film, as it had not yet been color-corrected or sound mixed and it lacked several parts of Vangelis' score. Ridley Scott stated that the workprint was "something that was pretty rough, but close enough to what I was after to let a preview audience see." Thus, the cut was shown to industry workers at the GoMillion Sound Studios in late February 1982 and to preview audiences in Denver, Colorado and Dallas, Texas in March 1982.
This version was rediscovered in 1989 by Michael Arick, who initially believed it to be the international cut. It was screened the following year at the Los Angeles Fairfax Theater as part of a 70mm spring festival. During this screening is when it was discovered to actually be a surviving copy of the workprint. Because the workprint was closer to Ridley Scott's vision for the film than the theatrical cuts, Arick became interested in producing a reconstruction of the film, an effort that ultimately resulted in the 1992 Director's Cut.
The Denver and Dallas sneak previews garnered a lukewarm reaction, which prompted several changes that resulted in the theatrical versions. While the workprint contained one piece of narration by Deckard, more were added at the request of studio executives after test audience members indicated difficulty understanding the film. Although several different versions of the script had included a narration of some sort, both Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford disliked the studio voice-over and resisted having it added to the film.
It has been suggested that Ford intentionally performed the voice-over poorly in the hope it would not be used, but Ford has denied this. In an interview with Playboy magazine in 2002, Ford was asked if he "deliberately read it badly, hoping they'd drop it?" He replied "No. I delivered it to the best of my ability given that I had no input. I never thought they'd use it. But I didn't try and sandbag it. It was simply bad narration." He added, "I was compelled by my contract to do the narration. When I first agreed to do the film, I told Ridley there was too much information given to the audience in narration." Ford had suggested to Ridley Scott that they "take it out and put it into scenes and let the audience acquire this information in a narrative fashion, without being told it." Scott thought this a good idea. "When we got done, the studio said nobody will understand this fucking movie. We have to create a narrative. They had already thrown Ridley off the movie - they were over budget. So I was compelled by my contract to record this narration."
The American and international theatrical versions released by the studio also included a "happy ending." Such a scene was originally scripted, but was ultimately not shot during principal photography due to time and budgetary restraints. Additionally, Scott had grown distasteful of the scene, wishing to end the film on a more uncertain note. After the mixed response from the test screenings, this ending was rewritten, filmed, and appended to the film. The filmed "happy ending" was shot in March 1982 and incorporated unused footage from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.
In May 1982, the American theatrical version was screened for a sneak preview audience in San Diego, California, but with the addition of two brief shots not present in the later theatrical cuts of the film. The first shows Roy Batty stepping out of a Vid-Phon booth (a shot that re-emerged in The Final Cut) and the second is an overhead shot of Deckard driving at the opening of the happy ending. The San Diego screening garnered a more enthusiastic response than the Dallas and Denver showings, but some in attendance indicated its pace being too slow, so Scott cut the two aforementioned shots. The Vid-Phon booth segment was replaced with Roy looking at his clenching hand, accomplished by altering two shots that appear later in the film.
The international cut, also known as the Unrated Version, is largely identical to the American theatrical release but with extra violence added in three scenes. This is the version of the film widely available on home video throughout the 1980s and the cut of the film that was distributed on a widescreen LaserDisc by Criterion with supplementary material.
A television edit of the American theatrical version premiered on CBS in 1986. In this edit, cuts were made to the film's violence, profanity, and sexual content in order to meet broadcast restrictions. The opening crawl also featured different text, read aloud by an uncredited actor.
In 1990, Warner Bros. briefly allowed theatrical screenings of a 70-mm copy of the workprint version of the film, advertising it as a Director's Cut. However, Ridley Scott publicly disowned the notion that the workprint was his definitive Director's Cut, citing that it was roughly edited and lacked the full score composed for the film by Vangelis. In response to Scott's dissatisfaction (and in part because of the film's resurgent cult popularity by the early 90s) Warner Bros. agreed with Scott to assemble a definitive Director's Cut of the film to be released in 1992.
They hired Michael Arick, who had rediscovered the workprint of Blade Runner and who was already doing consultation work for them, to head the project with Scott. He started by spending several months in London with Les Healey, who had been the assistant editor on Blade Runner, attempting to compile a list of the changes that Scott wanted made to the film. He also received a number of suggestions/directions directly from the director himself. However, due to time constraints, several of these suggestions were never accomplished. Some of these have never appeared in any version of the film, such as the re-insertion of a scene where Deckard visits Holden in a hospital.
Scott made three major requests for the Director's Cut. The first was the removal of Deckard's explanatory voice-over, an aspect of the film he had disliked since these were added after the Dallas and Denver screenings. The second request was the re-insertion of a dream sequence of a unicorn running through a forest, which had been left out of the theatrical versions. The third was the removal of the studio-imposed "happy ending" seen in the theatrical cuts. Arick worked on the cut until January 1992, trusting the rest to Warner Bros.
Meanwhile, Peter Gardiner began assembling a cut of the film, referred to as the Enhanced Workprint. Apparently unaware of Arick's efforts, Gardiner's goals were to add the rest of the Vangelis score and the unicorn dream into a restored version of the workprint, as well as redoing the end credits that had been made for the workprint's screenings. This version was approved by Ridley Scott, possibly unaware that this was not Arick's version.
The restoration of the unicorn dream was a more complicated matter than had been anticipated; Arick and Healey were unable to locate any of the original negatives for any of the film's originally-trimmed footage. As a result, Gardiner's version – which Arick finally became aware of in August 1992 – would not include the sequence. Scott threatened to publicly disown the cut because of the scene's absence. With only three weeks until the planned release, many of Scott's original requests were dropped in order to focus on the more significant ones, the unicorn dream being the top priority. An outtake from the unicorn footage was soon discovered in a London film vault and inserted into the film. Although Gardiner had continued to work on his cut (officially named Blade Runner: The Final Director's Cut Version) in case Arick's efforts were fruitless, Arick managed to complete the Director's Cut one week before its scheduled release.
Scott's other requests that ultimately made the cut were the removal of Deckard's narration, the re-insertion of the eye at the beginning of the film, removal of the happy ending, and a remastering of its audio and visuals.
Scott has since complained that time and money constraints, along with his obligation to Thelma & Louise, kept him from retooling the film in a completely satisfactory manner. While he was happier than before with the 1992 release of the film, he had never felt entirely comfortable with it as his definitive Director's Cut.
In 2000, Harrison Ford gave his view on the Director's Cut of the film saying, although he thought it "spectacular" it didn't "move him at all." He gave a brief reason: "They haven't put anything in, so it's still an exercise in design."
Originally released as a single-disc DVD in 1997, the Director's Cut was one of the first DVDs on the market. However, it is of low quality compared to DVDs of today (and even DVDs of the time) due to it being produced in the early days of the format and using a cropped LaserDisc master. It was re-released for a limited time with a new video transfer in 2006 in the months leading up to the release of The Final Cut.
The Final Cut
Partly as the result of his reservations about the Director's Cut, Scott was invited back in mid-2000 to help put together a final and definitive version of the film, with the oversight of Charles de Lauzirika, who began working on this version. During the process, Lauzirika rediscovered the film's negatives, which had been in "junk" storage since 1988. In 2002, Lauzirika completed a Ridley Scott-approved rough cut of the new version, which he referred to as the Definitive Cut. The Definitive Cut was slated for a 2002 release to coincide with the film's twentieth anniversary, and was to be released as part of a DVD set including the full international theatrical cut, an early workprint with additional scenes, and the newly enhanced version in addition to deleted scenes, extensive cast and crew interviews, and the documentary On the Edge of Blade Runner. However, Warner Bros. indefinitely delayed the Definitive Cut and DVD release after legal disputes began with the film's financiers (specifically Jerry Perenchio), who were ceded ownership of the film when the shooting ran over budget from $21.5 to $28 million.
After years of legal disputes, Warner Bros. secured full distribution rights to the film in 2005. By October 2006, Lauzirika was formally contracted to produce a Blade Runner DVD set, a feature-length documentary about the film, and a final version of the film, aptly-named The Final Cut. These were set to be released in 2007 to celebrate the film's twenty-fifth anniversary.
For this cut, all of the footage was transferred digitally, in contrast to all of the previous cuts, which had been edited on film. One of the first changes made was to subtly increase the brightness of several shots, per Scott's request, as several details had gone unseen in previous cuts due to the darker lighting combined with lower-resolution transfers.
This cut retained the changes made for the Director's Cut, but included numerous others. These additional alterations made for The Final Cut included a 5.1 Dolby audio mix, re-rendered credits, audio/visual sync improvements, fixing the sixth replicant error, and re-instatement of previously deleted footage, such as the extra violence contained in the international theatrical cut. The most notable old footage, however, was the full unicorn dream sequence, which had been rediscovered and was restored for The Final Cut.
Computer-generated special effects were also utilized for The Final Cut in order to fix several errors seen in previous versions, two instances requiring new footage. In the first, the Abdul Ben Hassan scene had its audio completely out of a sync with the video. In order to repair this, the special effects department reached out to Harrison Ford's son Ben Ford, who was filmed reciting his father's lines in the scene. His mouth and chin were then digitally inserted into the film over his father's. In the second, after being suggested by Joanna Cassidy, she was filmed performing Zhora's death scene since her stunt double, Lee Pulford, was clearly visible in previous versions. Her head was then digitally inserted over Pulford's.
After being approved by Ridley Scott on August 3, 2007, The Final Cut was screened theatrically in September and October. The home media release of The Final Cut occurred on December 18, 2007, and was made available on DVD, and the then-new Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats. It was later released on 4K Blu-ray.
- Note: The table below may be incomplete. Also, the San Diego sneak preview version has been omitted, as it is reportedly identical to the U.S. theatrical version, but with two added scenes, as noted above.
|Workprint (1982)||U.S. theatrical cut (1982)||International theatrical cut (1982)||U.S. broadcast cut (1986)*||Director's Cut (1992)||The Final Cut (2007)|
|Opening titles||Opening credits are shown for Harrison Ford and the title of the film, followed by a definition for replicant. Beyond this, there is no opening crawl.||The opening credits are more complete. An opening crawl is present, which explains replicants, their prohibition on Earth, and the Blade Runner Units that hunt them.||The opening crawl is similar to the other non-workprint versions, but shortened and read aloud by an uncredited narrator.||The opening credits are more complete. An opening crawl is present, which explains replicants, their prohibition on Earth, and the Blade Runner Units that hunt them.|
|Music||The score is incomplete, with several scenes featuring cues from Planet of the Apes, Freud, and Alien instead, or no music at all. Additionally, "If I Didn't Care" by The Ink Spots is heard in this cut; it is replaced in subsequent versions with an original composition, "One More Kiss, Dear."||The full score is present.||The full score is present, except a short segment replaced by new music that accompanies the unicorn dream.|
|Shooting of Holden||The camera lingers on Holden after he is sent through the wall.||After Holden is sent through the wall, the film almost immediately cuts to the next scene.|
|Off-world colonies advertisement||The Off-world colonies blimp can be heard making its full announcement: "A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure. New climates. Recreational facilities. Easy advancement. Great pay. Plus a loyal, trouble-free companion given to you upon arrival, absolutely free. Use your new friend as a personal body servant or a tireless field hand. The custom tailored genetically engineered humanoid replicant designed especially for your needs. So, come on America! Let's put our team up there. Give this country another chance. Let's go to the colonies! This announcement has been brought to you by Shimago-Dominguez Corporation. Helping America into the new world."||Mostly identical to the workprint, though "Easy advancement. Great pay. Plus a loyal, trouble-free companion given to you upon arrival, absolutely free." and "Give this country another chance. Let's go to the colonies!" are largely drowned out by dialogue. "This announcement has been brought to you by Shimago-Dominguez Corporation. Helping America into the new world." is removed.||The announcement is pared down to "A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure. Let's go to the colonies! This announcement has been brought to you by Shimago-Dominguez Corporation. Helping America into the new world."||"New climate, recreational facilities, easy advancement, great pay. Plus, a loyal trouble-free companion, given to you upon arrival, absolutely free. Use your new friend as a personal body" and "This announcement has been brought to you by Shimago-Dominguez Corporation. Helping America into the new world." are excised.|
|Narration||Only one narration is present, unique to this version, occurring after Roy Batty's death.||All narrations are present.||All narrations are absent.|
|Number of replicants||Bryant says that two of the six replicants were killed while breaking into the Tyrell headquarters.||Bryant says that one of the six replicants was killed while breaking into the Tyrell headquarters.||Bryant says that two of the six replicants were killed while breaking into the Tyrell headquarters.|
|Unicorn dream||Absent; Deckard instead sits at his piano until picking up Leon's photo.||Present; not full-length||Present; full-length|
|AV-synchronization in Abdul Ben Hassan scene||The dialogue is different than in the other versions and lacks sync issues.||Deckard's dialogue is completely out-of-sync with his lips.||The dialogue is in sync; Ford's son, Ben Ford, was filmed reciting Deckard's lines and his mouth and chin were digitally placed over his father's.|
|Zhora's death||Lee Pulford, Joanna Cassidy's stunt double, is clearly visible in the shot of Zhora falling.||Pulford is clearly visible in the shot of Zhora crashing through the first pane of glass. However, Zhora is only shot once, with her initial fall and second shot being edited out.||Pulford is clearly visible in the shot of Zhora falling.||Joanna Cassidy's head is digitally inserted over Lee Pulford's as Zhora falls.|
|Deckard's bruising||Deckard's face is bruised before his fight with Leon.||Deckard's bruising has been removed until after the fight.|
|"I want more life..."||Roy completes the sentence with "father."||Roy completes the sentence with "fucker."||The line is cut short to censor "fucker."||Roy completes the sentence with "fucker."||Roy completes the sentence with "father."|
|Tyrell's death||Roy gouges Tyrell's eyes out as he crushes his head. However, the shot of Roy plunging his thumb into the left eye is omitted. Afterward, Roy says to J.F., "Sorry, Sebastian. Come. Come."||Roy crushes Tyrell's head; no eye-gouging is visible.||Roy gouges both of Tyrell's eyes out as he crushes his head.||Roy does not kiss Tyrell. He crushes Tyrell's head, but the scene is shortened, with no visible eye-gouging. Audio of Tyrell's skull breaking is also removed.||Roy crushes Tyrell's head; no eye-gouging is visible.||Roy gouges both of Tyrell's eyes out as he crushes his head. Afterward, Roy says to J.F., "Sorry, Sebastian. Come. Come."|
|Pris' death||Pris is shot two times.||Pris is shot three times.||Pris is shot two times.||Pris is shot three times.|
|Flight of Roy's dove||After Roy dies, the dove flies into a light sky.||The dove flies into a dark sky.|
|Ending||The film cuts to black after Deckard and Rachael board the elevator; there are no ending credits, only the words "THE END."||The "Happy Ending" – After Deckard and Rachael board the elevator, they are seen driving in the countryside. In a voiceover, Deckard reveals that Tyrell informed him that Rachael does not have a built-in lifespan.||The film cuts to black after Deckard and Rachael board the elevator.|
- * = In addition to what is noted above, nudity and strong language are removed.