The differences between Richard Lester's Superman II (1980) and The Richard Donner Cut (2006)

18 March 2023

 The Richard Donner Cut of Superman II was produced in response to fan demand for a version of the film that more closely reflected director Richard Donner's original vision. Donner had been removed from the production of the film by the producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, and replaced by Richard Lester, who took the film in a more comedic direction.

In the years following the release of Superman II in 1980, there were rumors that Donner had shot enough footage for his own version of the film. However, it wasn't until the release of the Superman DVD box set in 2001 that fans got their first glimpse of Donner's footage. This set included a few scenes from Superman II that Donner had shot, but which had not been used in the theatrical release.

Encouraged by the positive response to these scenes, Warner Bros. approached Donner about creating a new cut of Superman II, using as much of his footage as possible. Donner agreed, and work began on assembling the Donner Cut.

The process of creating the Donner Cut was a challenging one, as much of the original footage had been lost or destroyed. To fill in the gaps, Donner and his team used screen tests, alternate takes, and other footage that had been shot for the original Superman film. They also had to re-record dialogue and sound effects to match the new footage.

The Donner Cut premiered on November 28, 2006, in a special DVD release. The film received generally positive reviews, with many fans and critics praising the restoration of Marlon Brando's Jor-El and the more serious and dramatic tone of the film.

Overall, the Donner Cut of Superman II is a testament to the power of fan demand and the perseverance of filmmakers in their efforts to realize their artistic visions. Despite the challenges they faced in assembling the footage, Donner and his team were able to create a version of the film that was truer to their original intentions and gave fans a fresh look at this beloved superhero.

Donner said of his 2006 version:

 "We were lucky to find the material we found. A lot of it was in a vault, but a lot of it was lost. We had to find alternate takes and use screen tests. But we did the best we could."

the richard donner cut

Here are some examples of the changes and differences between the Richard Lester directed version of Superman II and 'The Richard Donner Cut':


In the Lester version of Superman II, there is a scene where Clark Kent uses his powers to stop a falling plant from crushing Lois Lane. This scene was not in the Donner version, and its inclusion is consistent with Lester's more humorous take on the character. Another comedic addition in the Lester version is a scene where Superman uses his powers to straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

On the other hand, the Donner Cut features a scene where Superman uses his heat vision to free Paris from the Fortress of Solitude's force field. This scene was not in the Lester version and emphasizes Superman's powers rather than his humor.


One of the most significant reshoots in the Lester version was the replacement of Marlon Brando's Jor-El with Susannah York's Lara in several scenes. This was due to a dispute over Brando's compensation for his appearance in the film. In the Donner Cut, Brando's Jor-El is restored to these scenes, giving the film a more cohesive feel. Additionally, the Donner Cut features new footage of Brando that was shot during the production of the first Superman film but was not used in the original cut of Superman II.

Another significant reshoot in the Lester version was the replacement of Lois Lane's "Can You Read My Mind" voiceover with a more upbeat montage of her and Superman's romantic escapades. The Donner Cut restores the original voiceover, giving the scene a more intimate and emotional feel.

Other Changes:

The endings of the two versions are also different. 

In the Lester version, Superman uses his powers to reverse time and save Lois from being killed by a gunshot. This sequence involves Superman flying around the Earth at high speeds, reversing its rotation and thereby turning back time. This ending has been criticized by some for being too fantastical and undermining the dramatic tension of the film.

In the Donner Cut, Superman uses his powers to erase Lois's memory of their romance, allowing him to protect her from future danger without putting her in harm's way. This ending is more in line with the serious and dramatic tone of Donner's original vision for the film.

Overall, the differences between the Richard Lester directed version of Superman II and 'The Richard Donner Cut' are numerous and significant. While the Lester version is more comedic and lighthearted, the Donner Cut is more serious and emotional. Fans of the original Superman film franchise have different preferences when it comes to the two versions, but both have their merits and offer unique takes on the iconic superhero.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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