15 'Epic' Movies That Are Just Really Long (and Boring)
For those of you who've ever sat through a three-hour saga, and questioned your life decisions, this list is for you.
1. "War and Peace" (1966-67)
Kicking off our list is the Russian adaptation of Tolstoy's monumental novel, "War and Peace." Spread over four films, the total running time hits a whopping 431 minutes. That's nearly seven hours of court intrigues, Napoleonic wars, and philosophical musings. If you ever wondered what it would be like to read the book in real-time, this is your answer.
While lauded for its authentic portrayal of the era and massive battle scenes, you might find yourself wishing for Napoleon to hurry up already. Rotten Tomatoes audience score stands at a solid 85%, suggesting that, for some, length equates to quality.
2. "Cleopatra" (1963)
"Cleopatra," known more for its off-screen drama than its on-screen plot, turned out to be a financial sinkhole for 20th Century Fox. The original cut of the film reportedly ran for six hours, but even after significant trimming, it weighed in at a substantial 248 minutes. Sure, the film swept up a bunch of Oscar nominations, and Elizabeth Taylor's eyes sparkled like the Nile under the Egyptian sun, but the prolonged spectacle started to feel like a history lecture from a professor who forgot his notes.
3. "Gone with the Wind" (1939)
A classic, no doubt, but also a whopping 238-minute spectacle that makes you ponder the meaning of life, and not in a philosophical way. As beautiful as Vivien Leigh was, and as dashing as Clark Gable appeared, the drawn-out drama of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler lost its wind about halfway through. Though it remains one of the highest-grossing films of all time and boasts an 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, modern audiences often deem it more melodramatic (and even problematic) than magnetic.
4. "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962)
Director David Lean is notorious for his love of sprawling landscapes and slow-building narratives. His magnum opus, "Lawrence of Arabia," is no exception. The film's 227-minute runtime, which feels as vast as the desert itself, features a plot that moves at a camel's pace. Despite Peter O'Toole's captivating blue eyes and the movie's multiple Oscar wins, some viewers might find themselves lost in the sands of ennui.
5. "The Godfather Part II" (1974)
The second installment of Francis Ford Coppola's iconic mafia trilogy is, arguably, one of the greatest sequels ever made. However, at 200 minutes, it's also a test of one's endurance. Shuffling between two timelines, the film is rich in narrative and performance, especially Al Pacino's, who received an Oscar nod for his role.
However, the densely-packed plot can be exhausting, especially if you're not particularly interested in the intricacies of mob politics. Interestingly enough, the film holds a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proving that while it may be long and dense, it certainly has its devoted fans.
6. "The Deer Hunter" (1978)
Here's an epic that took home five Oscars, including Best Picture and Director for Michael Cimino. Clocking in at 183 minutes, "The Deer Hunter" explores the psychological turmoil of three steelworkers before, during, and after their service in the Vietnam War. While the Russian roulette scenes are undeniably tense, the movie is interlaced with long, drawn-out sequences (the wedding scene, anyone?).
Despite its critical acclaim and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93%, its pacing has often been criticized as sluggish, making this war drama feel like an endurance test.
7. "Interstellar" (2014)
Christopher Nolan's sci-fi drama "Interstellar" was met with praise for its ambition and visuals, but with a runtime of 169 minutes, it's an arduous journey through space and time. The mind-bending plot becomes increasingly convoluted as it dives into wormholes, fifth-dimensional beings, and love as a universal force.
While the film was nominated for five Academy Awards (and won for Best Visual Effects), its length and complex narrative left some audience members lost in a black hole of confusion, despite its strong 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003)
If you thought Frodo's journey to Mount Doom was long, wait till you see the film's runtime – a mighty 201 minutes. The final installment of Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy, this film has enough endings to make you wonder if you're trapped in a time loop. The movie's length became a running joke among fans, despite its Oscar sweep (11 wins) and an impressive 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you love Middle Earth, it's an enjoyable ride, but if not, you might feel like you've been on a walk to Mordor yourself.
9. "Ben-Hur" (1959)
The Charlton Heston starrer "Ben-Hur" is indeed an epic in every sense – epic sets, epic chariot race, and an epic 212-minute runtime. The film, which won a record 11 Oscars, tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a prince falsely accused of treason. While it's got some truly impressive scenes, its length, combined with long dialogue sequences and Heston's sometimes wooden acting, can make it feel like you're rowing a Roman galley.
10. "Titanic" (1997)
Yes, the unsinkable ship. James Cameron's "Titanic" is a romantic disaster film that feels almost as long as the actual Titanic's maiden voyage. While the film was a colossal success, scooping 11 Oscars and holding a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, its 194-minute runtime can be a bit of a snoozefest. For many, watching Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's whirlwind romance unfold amid the doom of an iceberg collision feels longer than waiting for rescue in the frigid North Atlantic.
11. "The Ten Commandments" (1956)
One of the highest-grossing films of its time, "The Ten Commandments" was Cecil B. DeMille's last and most successful work. A biblical epic at 220 minutes long, it's like experiencing an overly extended Sunday sermon.
As much as we admire Charlton Heston's portrayal of Moses and the groundbreaking (or should I say sea-parting) special effects, by the time the Hebrews reach the promised land, you might be suffering from cinematic manna fatigue. Yet it boasts an 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it clear that some viewers still appreciate the divine spectacle.
12. "Barry Lyndon" (1975)
Stanley Kubrick's period drama "Barry Lyndon" was praised for its beautiful cinematography and historical accuracy. Yet, this film about an ambitious Irishman's ascent to the British aristocracy clocks in at a sleepy 185 minutes. Its slow-paced narrative, combined with the film's stoic acting, leaves some viewers feeling as detached as its titular character. Despite nabbing four Academy Awards and holding an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film's snail-like pace could make watching paint dry seem exhilarating.
13. "Doctor Zhivago" (1965)
Another David Lean film for the list, "Doctor Zhivago" is a three-hour-plus love story set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. While the film is praised for its scenic beauty and stirring score, the drawn-out narrative could give Tolstoy a run for his money. Even with five Academy Awards to its name and an 85% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the epic love triangle might make you wish for a quicker cinematic revolution.
14. "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984)
Sergio Leone's epic crime drama "Once Upon a Time in America" spans over four decades of a gangster's life. Clocking in at 229 minutes, the film's narrative dances around in time, which, combined with Leone's unhurried style, can test the patience of even the most dedicated viewer. Despite its sterling cast, including Robert De Niro and James Woods, and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%, its lengthy runtime might leave some viewers feeling they've aged along with the characters.
15. "Dances With Wolves" (1990)
Ending our list is Kevin Costner's directorial debut, "Dances With Wolves". This western drama, telling the story of a Union Army officer's interaction with a Lakota tribe, won seven Academy Awards. Yet, its 181-minute runtime, coupled with a deliberate pacing and Costner's whispery voiceovers, may turn it into a dance with drowsiness.