Seven versions of the film Blade Runner exist, but only the Director's Cut and International Cut are widely known and seen:
- The U.S. Theatrical Cut (also known as Original Version), released in the U.S. in June 1982.
- The International Cut (also known as Criterion Edition), which included more graphic violence than the U.S. theatrical release was released theatrically outside the U.S. and was the version released on VHS and Laserdisc, most notably as part of The Criterion Collection.
- The workprint discovered in 1989, shown only as an audience test preview and occasionally at film festivals; this was distributed in 1991, as a Director's Cut without Scott's approval.
- The Ridley Scott-approved 1992 Director's Cut; prompted by the unauthorized 1991 release.
- Ridley Scott's (2001-2007) Final Cut, was briefly released theatrically and onto various home media formats by Warner Home Video in late 2007.
Original Theatrical Versions
The 1982 American and international theatrical versions released by the studio included a "happy ending" (using stock footage from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining) and a voice-over added at the request of studio executives during post-production 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 wouldn't be used,
In an interview with Playboy magazine in 2002, Ford was asked (about the voice-over) 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." Ford is also quoted (in 1999 about the voice-over) saying: "I had no chance to participate in it, so I simply read it. I was very, very unhappy with their choices and with the quality of the material. I contested it mightily at the time. It was not an organic part of the film.'"
The International Cut
The International Cut, or Unrated Version, is largely identical to the theatrical release but with extra violence added in three scenes:
- When Batty confronts Tyrell in his bedroom, in addition to crushing Tyrell's face with his hands, Batty pokes out Tyrell's eyes with his thumbs, releasing a huge amount of blood.
- When Pris has somersaulted onto Deckard's back, rather than hitting him three times and then dropping him (as she does in the R-rated versions), she hits him twice, then inserts her fingers into his nostrils and releases her legs, holding him up by his nostrils for a few seconds before dropping him to the floor. The shot of him falling to the floor is identical in all versions. Deckard also shoots Pris an extra time, and the scenes of her thrashing randomly on the floor after having been shot are slightly extended.
- When Batty is being hunted by Deckard at the end of the film, he pushes a nail through his own hand, which again bleeds profusely.
This is the version of the film widely available on Home Video throughout the 1980's and the cut of the film that was distributed on a widescreen LaserDisc by Criterion with supplementary material.
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 workprint version of the film as his definitive Director's Cut, citing that it was roughly edited and lacked the 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. decided to assemble a definitive Director's Cut of the film with direction from Scott to be released in 1992.
They hired film-restorationist 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. Three major changes were made to the film which most would agree significantly changed the feel of the film: the removal of Deckard's explanatory voice-over, the re-insertion of a dream sequence of a unicorn running through a forest, and the removal of the studio-imposed "happy ending", including some associated visuals which had originally run under the film's end-credits. The original sequence of Deckard's unicorn dream wasn't found in a print of sufficient quality; the original scene shows Deckard intercut with the running unicorn. Arick was thus forced to use a different print that shows only the unicorn running without any intercutting to Deckard. As mentioned above, the removal of the "happy ending" and the re-insertion of the unicorn scene suggests a completely different ending where Gaff's origami unicorn would mean that Deckard's dreams are also known, and therefore he too would be a replicant of the same generation as Rachael. That would also explain the need for the unicorn scene.
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 is happier than before with the 1992 release of the film, he has 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 transfer in 2006 in the months leading up to the release of The Final Cut.
The Final Cut
Partly as the result of those complaints, Scott was invited back in mid-2000 to help put together a final and definitive version of the film, which was completed in mid-2001. During the process, a new digital print of the film was created from the original negatives, special effects were updated and cleaned, and the sound was remastered in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. Unlike the rushed 1992 Director's Cut, Scott personally oversaw the new cut as it was being made. The Special Edition DVD was slated for a Christmas time 2001 release, and was originally rumored to be a three-disc 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". But Warner Bros. indefinitely delayed the "Special Edition" 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. announced in 2006 that it had finally secured full distribution rights to the film. They planned for three stages of releases for the film. First, a digitally remastered single-disc limited re-release of the 1992 Director's Cut was released on September 5, 2006 in the United States and on October 9, 2006 in Ireland and the UK. Second, Ridley Scott's new "Final Cut" and was given limited release theatrically on October 5, 2007. It later expanded to other markets.
The 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. Releases included:
- Two-Disc Special Edition - including The Final Cut version plus a bonus disc with the lengthy documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner.
- Four-Disc Collector's Edition - including the same content as the Two-Disc edition in the same formats, this version also included The Theatrical Cut, The International Cut and the 1992 Director's Cut and a disc of bonus features.
- Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition - packaged in a small briefcase resembling a Voight-Kampff machine, this edition included the same content as the Four-Disc edition but also included several pieces of collectible memorabilia as well as the Workprint Edition of the film on a fifth disc.
- The Final Cut - This release, as the name would suggest, includes only The Final Cut and omits Disc 2 with the Dangerous Days documentary from the Two-Disc Special Edition. Steelbooks of this Blu-ray were also produced in limited quantities.
- 30th Anniversary Edition - Packaged in a "collector's boxset" and exclusive to Blu-ray with a spinner replica and a 72-page exclusive booklet (also includes a fourth disc; a DVD of The Final Cut, along with Ultraviolet and Digital copies). A 3-disc Digibook edition was also released--the 3 discs being identical to the ones released in the 4-disc version, minus the Ultraviolet/Digital copies disc. This version also comes with an exclusive booklet, but it's cut down to 36 pages. Both versions of this release include all bonus materials from the 2007 release, and includes a new still image gallery with over 1000 photos and combines them, Dangerous Days, The Workprint and the rest of the bonus features into one 50GB Blu-ray disc.