As much as we all love cinema, sometimes a movie just doesn’t work out the way we hoped or expected. Perhaps a favourite character wasn’t done justice, or a plot point wasn’t fully realised. Maybe it was too long or too short, or featured new characters that people just hated. Film is, of course, a subjective medium, and not everything will be for everyone. However, since the arrival of the internet, films that are generally regarded as ‘disappointments’ have been given a fresh new coat of paint through the art of the fan edit.

As the name implies, a fan edit involves someone – usually an amateur – taking all the available footage and re-editing the film to create something they view as more palatable. Through various means, these bootleg cuts have sometimes found their way onto the internet and become cult hits, with those dissatisfied with the original work claiming these new visions to be improvements.

But who takes it on themselves to look at a movie and think “I can fix this”, and do they always succeed?

In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Some of the most famous examples of the fan edit have centred around the Star Wars saga. This is perhaps because the franchise has a very active and vocal fan base who have taken issue with certain decisions made with the films over the last 25 years.

One example of that ire is the 1997 Special Edition cinemas, and the various editorial tinkering that has been done to the beloved Original Trilogy. This has led to such projects as the collaborative Star Wars: Despecialised Edition, an effort by Czech teacher Petr Harmáček and others to preserve a version of the films that more closely resembles the version shown in cinemas during their original runs. The project proved a hit with many fans, and led to Harmáček getting a job within the film industry. The legality of this and other re-edits are dubious, with the films being offered for ‘educational’ purposes and advising that only those who own an official version of the movies on physical or digital media may download these new editions.

While some seek to restore films, others overhaul them. In the early 2000s, The Phantom Edit began to circulate among film lovers and industry insiders. It was an edit of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, commonly remembered as a somewhat disappointing prequel to the Original Trilogy. The Phantom Edit altered some of the more hated content and generally whittled it down to a version that creator Mike J. Nicholls felt was more in line with George Lucas’ storytelling in the previous films. It made a big splash in the media, with Nicholls working under the guise of The Phantom Editor, and is considered by many as an interesting and subtle re-consideration of the movie.

With the growth of technology, the series has been subject to a number of alternative edits – pretty much any time there’s a saga instalment that someone dislikes, there will inevitably be a fan edit addressing the issue!

Trailer Mix

As well as giving feature films a new look, a common sub-genre of the fan edit is the ‘trailer mix’, in which movie trailers are re-cut to make them seem like they belong in a different genre (usually one that’s quite different in tone). We can see Home Alone as if it were a horror movie, a thriller such as The Silence of the Lambs being presented as a romantic comedy, or a mind-bending drama like Inception as a feel-good Christmas film.

While these are more for fun than artistic merit, they do show what’s possible when one plays around with certain shots, or changes the music to a film. In a sense, it’s mimicking what movie studios do with official trailers. How many times have you seen a preview that seems to have a scary or funny tone, only for the full film to be quite different? There have even been instances where a trailer edit influenced the final film: When the first trailer of Suicide Squad was released in 2016, it had been edited to highlight the comedic elements. This changed the tone of the film’s eventual release, which was initially more serious.

Famous Editors

Fan edits aren’t limited to people outside of the industry. Topher Grace, star of That ‘70s Show and films such as Traffic, found himself struggling emotionally after playing a reprehensible white supremacist in Spike Lee’s BlackkkKlansman. So, as a way to relax, he turned to the editing suite, making his own cut of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. His version was edited down to two hours, feeling in his words a lot “tighter” than the three films that received a lukewarm reception when released during the 2010s.

The actor has also edited down the Star Wars prequels into one film, running less than 90 minutes. “I don’t know what other guys do. Go fishing?” he joked in an interview with IndieWire. “For me, this is just a great way to relax”.

One film that he won’t turn his attention to, however, is Spider-Man 3, which has also had some alternative cuts by fans in the past. The reason? He stars in it as Eddie Brock/Venom, and refuses to edit any film he appears in.

Some famous names from behind the camera have also reworked other people’s films. In 2014, Steven Soderbergh edited both the original and 1998 versions of Psycho. Given that the ‘90s version is a shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic, the Ocean’s Eleven filmmaker was able to cut the two together, going back and forth with visual and audio elements from both movies. A dedicated student of cinema, Soderbergh also re-cut infamous ‘70s flop Heaven’s Gate, slicing the running time in half in order to showcase the film’s most memorable moments.


There’s a highly anticipated new edit of a film coming next year, and while the man behind it can hardly be described as a fan, the project is certainly fan-powered. As 2017’s Justice League received a negative reaction from fans, a movement began on social media to see the original vision of Zack Snyder, the director who had initially worked on the film but had to leave the project following a family tragedy. Joss Whedon took over and extensive reshoots were scheduled, resulting in a film that, in Snyder’s view, was very different to the one he’d intended. The hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut immediately began trending, as fans called for Warner Bros to allow Snyder to re-edit the film using original footage and new special effects.

Though it was initially dismissed as the grumblings of a disgruntled fan base, the film’s stars began backing the movement, and what seemed unlikely soon became a reality. Streaming service HBO Max stepped in to fund the project, now titled Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which will debut in mid-2021 – initially planned as a four-episode miniseries, and now as a four-hour film.

Such an event shows the power of modern audiences, which comes from a similar place to the mentality of af fan edit, only with more official means. Instead of making a statement about where a filmmaker went wrong, this movement has put the power back in the artist’s hands. It has also led some comic book movie lovers to demand David Ayer’s initial cut of 2016’s Suicide Squad.

Fan Edits… Or Fan-atics?

All of this does, however, beg the question of whether these edits are in danger of overtaking the original vision of the filmmakers. Could cinema become an open source endeavour where we all have a say in the destinies of Star Wars, Marvel, DC and other beloved universes?

It’s highly doubtful. Fan edits have been compared to remixes in the music industry, where a new version of a song may become popular, but, generally speaking, the original is the one that people sing.

Fan edits are, however, a sign of the growing link between cinema and audiences: whereas film fans were once passive observers, the internet and social media has given them the power to have their voice heard, and even cut the studio out of the equation entirely. What’s more, advances in consumer software mean you don’t have a space on a studio lot to tinker with a blockbuster.

Chiefly, however, fan edits are a measure of the passion with which many hold these stories, demanding that each new instalment live up to the memories they associate with it – and taking matters into their own hands if they don’t.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Related Articles