The original UK cinema version (aka Romero's 'theatrical print') was cut by 3 mins 46 secs by the BBFC to remove an exploding head and a screwdriver killing plus stabbings and scenes of disembowelment, and the 1989 video version lost a further 12 secs of gore and shooting plus a scene of a woman's neck being bitten during the housing project sequence. Some cuts were restored in the alternate 1997 Directors Cut video although 6 secs remained missing including the exploding head, neck bite and an additional edit to the shooting of the two zombie children (in response to the 1997 Dunblane massacre). All cuts were fully waived in 2003 from both the Directors Cut and the original theatrical versions. The later Blu-Ray release by Arrow was uncut as well.
In Spain there are several DVD versions, The 2003 by Crest Films, S.L. / Suevia Films runs 115 minutes approx. in PAL. One of them is in 4:3 and the other is in 16:9.
In Germany there were VHS copies in circulation that were an exact duplicate of the 1985 Austrailian VHS by CBS/FOX Video. The sleeve and the tape were exactly identical to the one that features the character Steven on the front.
There are three main versions of the film. -The U.S. Theatrical Version, which George A. Romero considers his definitive cut of the film, runs 127 minutes and was the version released in American theaters in 1979. It contains a mix of both Goblin's soundtrack and several library tracks. -Dario Argento's cut, released in Italy under the title ZOMBI, and also known as the European Version, runs 118 minutes. It removes several scenes, mostly anything humorous, emphasizing the horror and action, and has more extensive use of the Goblin music. -The Extended Version or Cannes Film Festival Version runs 139 minutes (this version was erroneously called the 'director's cut' when Elite Entertainment released it on laserdisc). It was assembled to premiere at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival and is something of a workprint. It contains many extended scenes and the soundtrack is almost entirely library tracks. All three versions have been made available on Anchor Bay's DVD box set, the Japanese Happinet/Stingray Blu-Ray box set, and Arrow's UK Blu-Ray box set.
An extended version has found its way onto file-sharing sites called the 'Extended Mall Hours' cut, which combines footage from all three major versions of the film into a 155-minute cut.
After the dinner scene where Stephen proposes to Fran and she turns him down, there is a brief montage that ends in a frustrated Stephen and Fran lying naked in bed together. In the U.S. Theatrical version, there is an edited shadow effect covering the bare chest of actress Gaylen Ross. However, in both the extended and European cuts of the film, there is no shadow effect and her breasts are clearly visible.
The Cannes Film Festival cut was originally only available on 16mm film, until Elite Entertainment's laserdisc release in 1996.
Old (banned) German version ("Zombie") is 102 minutes long, has most of the violence in, but a lot of dialogue cut. A newer German version ("Zombie - Das Original") 110 (PAL) minutes long, missing nearly all of the violence. Later, an "uncut" German version (117 min.) was been re-released as a rental-only video.
The new German version ("Zombie - Das Original") 110 (video pal) minutes long, missing nearly all of the violence.
The remastered 137-minute "Director's Cut" released recently by Elite on laserdisc, and other companies on VHS, is actually not Romero's preferred version. This "Director's cut" is instead the version rushed into shape for a showing at Cannes. The shorter version shown theatrically has tighter editing and almost all Goblin's music. So technically, the theatrical version is the "Final Director's Cut" and the Cannes version is a "1st director's cut".
A heavily edited "R-rated" version of "Dawn of the Dead" (with more than 50 cuts) was released in 1982 to be put in a drive-in double-bill with George Romero's Creepshow (1982). After widespread protests by fans, United Film Distribution (the original distributors of Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow) publicly surrendered the MPAA-sanctioned rating and vowed only to release "Dawn of the Dead" in its unedited, unrated state. As of 2015, this R-rated version has never been released again.
The Japanese Theatrical Version was a censored version of Dario Argento's cut. The Argento version in its original form couldn't pass the strict Japanese censor board. What does make this version interestingis how the censors dealt with the film's graphic content When the moment a gore scene occurred, the film stopped on the frame prior the violence and froze, with the sound playing through. Then, a second or two later, when the 'offending' moment had passed, the film jumped back into motion.
What sets the Japanese Theatrical Version apart from all the other versions is the inclusion in the beginning of an explanation. Herald Films, the Japanese distributor of DOTD, felt that the Japanese audience would not be able to accept the ambiguous setting of zombies on Earth that Romero had so skillfully left unanswered. Instead, they felt the Japanese audience must have an answer or else they wouldn't be able to get the story. They accomplished this by sticking some white words on to a black background that typed across the screen while a heavy clicking came from the soundtrack.
The uncut Australian version was released on the CBS/Fox video label, and is George Romero's cut of the film. Dario Argento's version has not been released in Australia.
DVD of the theatrical cut released by Anchor Bay in 1999 contains some extra footage during the dock scene (in which Joe Pilato plays a police officer). This scene runs slightly longer than in the actual 126-minute theatrical version, but is not complete as seen in the "director's cut", or Cannes cut.
In 1995 GMT Video Productions in Germany released a 147 minute unauthorized bootleg cut of the film on PAL VHS. It is the Argento cut of the film with alternate scenes edited into it from an old 16mm copy of the 138-minute Cannes Film Festival version, and some scenes from the US version. Only 500 copies were allegedly made.
The film was heavily censored when originally released theatrically in Ontario, Canada in 1979. All Canadian videotape versions are uncut.
A Dutch two-disc DVD release by DFW Dutch Filmworks contained both the 139-minute Cannes festival cut (with a widescreen transfer identical to Anchor Bay's older DVD) and Dario Argento's European edition presented in open matte.
Also, in the March 2004 DVD release, all the blood has been re-colored so that it now looks realistic, not the pinkish color in the original.
The special "Zombie: Dawn of the Dead Perfect Collection" (released by Emotion) Japanese laserdisc box set that was made during the late '90s featured both Romero's 142 min perfect cut, as well as an uncut (compared to their theatrical one) version for the Dario Argento cut of the film. It also included some extras, etc. Both films were released in full screen.