Watchmen is a 2009 American superhero film directed by Zack Snyder, based on the 1986–87 DC Comics limited series of the same name by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It stars an ensemble cast of Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson. A dark satirical and dystopian take on the superhero genre, the film is set in an alternate history in the year 1985 at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, as a group of mostly retired American superheroes investigates the murder of one of their own before uncovering an elaborate and deadly conspiracy, while their moral limitations are challenged by the complex nature of the circumstances.
From October 1987 until October 2005, a live-action film adaptation of the Watchmen series became stranded in development hell; producer Lawrence Gordon began developing the project at 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., the parent company of Watchmen publisher DC Comics, with producer Joel Silver and director Terry Gilliam, with the latter eventually deeming the complex comic "un-filmable". During the 2000s, Gordon and Lloyd Levin collaborated with Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures to produce a script by David Hayter; Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass were also attached to the project before it was cancelled over budget disputes; and in October 2005, the project returned to Warner Bros., where Snyder was hired to direct; Paramount remained as its international distributor whereas Warner Bros. would distribute the film in the United States. However, Fox sued Warner Bros. for copyright violation arising from Gordon's failure to pay a buy-out in 1991, which enabled him to develop the film at the other studios. Fox and Warner Bros. settled this before the film's release, with Fox receiving a portion of the gross. Principal photography began in Vancouver, September 2007. As with his previous film 300, Snyder closely modelled his storyboards on the comic, but chose not to shoot all of Watchmen using green screens and opted for real sets instead.
Following its world premiere at Odeon Leicester Square on February 23, 2009, the film was released in both conventional and IMAX theaters on March 6, 2009, and grossed $55 million on its opening weekend and over $185 million at the worldwide box office. The film's reception has been very polarized, with many critics voicing either strong positive or negative views. A DVD based on elements of the Watchmen universe was released, including an animated adaptation of the comic Tales of the Black Freighter within the story starring Gerard Butler, and the fictional biography Under the Hood, detailing the older generation of superheroes from the film's back-story. A director's cut with 24 minutes of additional footage was released in July 2009. The "Ultimate Cut" edition incorporated the animated comic Tales of the Black Freighter into the narrative as it was in the original graphic novel, lengthening the runtime to 3 hours and 35 minutes, and was released on November 3, 2009.