10 Genius Edits That Totally Saved Movies

A most excellent editing choice.

American Beauty
DreamWorks Pictures

Every movie of course needs a cast and crew to get the thing shot and in the can, but a film only truly comes to life in the editing room, when decisions are made which can make or break it.

The sheer number of possibilities open to filmmakers and their editors means that talented artists can come up with creative solutions to post-production issues, perhaps even saving their entire movie in the process.

There's surely no horror quite like getting into the edit and realising a promising script fundamentally doesn't work as shot, but with some inspired editorial wizardry, these directors managed to find a pathway through the darkness.

Whether making the difficult decision to kill their darlings and cleave large amounts of material out of the movie, digging deep into the guts of the film and restructuring huge parts of it, or making ingenious changes to potentially problematic scenes, these projects were all rescued from critical maulings, lost box office millions, and perhaps even protests thanks to some sly editing tricks...

10. A Murder Trial Frame Narrative Was Removed - American Beauty

American Beauty

Sam Mendes' masterful drama American Beauty ended up scooping five Oscars - including Best Picture and Best Director - while receiving three other nominations, including a well-earned nod for Best Film Editing.

But Tariq Anwar and Christopher Greenbury's outstanding editing job went far beyond what either Oscar voters or the general public knew at the time, because they were ultimately charged with erasing an entire misjudged subplot from the film.

Originally, the story was bookended by scenes involving Lester's (Kevin Spacey) daughter Jane (Thora Birch) and her boyfriend Ricky (Wes Bentley) being wrongly convicted of Lester's murder as part of a media trial.

However, in the final week of editing Mendes made the decision to remove these scenes entirely, feeling that they not only robbed the film of its mystery and ran counter to its redemptive themes, but turned the story into "an episode of NYPD Blue."

In writer Alan Ball's own words:

"In the first draft, there was a framing device of a big media trial, where the videotape of Ricky and Jane has made them guilty in the public's eye. It all led to this horribly upsetting ending where they went on trial and got convicted. We actually shot it, and when it got into editing it was just too cynical and too awful. Because with Thora and Wes in the movie, that love story is so heartbreaking, and the trial was also at odds with the whole heart of the movie, of Lester's journey and his realisation, so it just fell out."

This is certainly a case where less is more dramatically, because it's tough to imagine this framing device doing anything but bloating the movie out with excess subplot baggage.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.