The original release included a sequence in which Lawrence, after his arrival at Faisal's camp and before the journey into the Nefud Dresert, voluntarily undergoes a risky test of courage. He and Ali (Omar Sharif) both jump into a quicksand pit, which begins to swallow them. The idea is that whoever calls for help last has the most courage. Lawrence wins the contest, thus proving himself more worthy in the eyes of the Bedouins, particularly Ali, with whom he has been on unfriendly terms up until now. This scene helps explain why the Bedouins would follow him into the desert. It was excised from the later versions and was not included in the 1988 restoration. Still photos exist of it, however.
Originally released at 222 minutes. Shortly after its premiere, David Lean, reportedly under the orders of producer Sam Spiegel, cut 20 minutes from the film. The 1971 re-release cut the film further to 187 minutes. The film was restored in 1988 at 216 minutes. This version, supervised by Lean, was advertised as a Director's Cut.
The 1983 Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED), also commonly known RCA Selectavision Videodisc contains the 1971 re-release version which was rated "G" by the MPAA.
In accordance with a 1995 decision by the Writers Guild of America to give Michael Wilson a co-writing credit (based on documentary evidence that he had been a major contributor to the script), newer copies such as the DVD and the prints made for the 40th anniversary re-release feature the altered credit: "Screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson" (previously, only Bolt's name was listed).