Sometimes we see a long runtime for a film and just think that’s too much effort to get through today. Usually, we don’t have three uninterrupted hours to spend on a single film. Usually. Well, right now, most of the world is in lockdown. And if you’re stuck at home, now is the time to get through that classic everyone talks about! What else are you going to do? But if you don’t know where to start, here are 10 great films that’ll keep your attention for many hours and be well worth a watch.
If you’ve ever wanted a silent masterpiece, a good place to start is D.W. Griffith’s INTOLERANCE: LOVE’S STRUGGLE THROUGH THE AGES. It’s a true epic– with enormous sets, multiple time periods, and over 3,000 extras. Made during the literal infancy of Hollywood, this is a hugely influential work that changed the course of cinema. However, it’s also an easy watch. There are four different story strands, so the film justifies its length, and the stunning scale is constantly impressive. INTOLERANCE remains one of silent cinema’s most easy-going dramatic works and so is well worth seeking out.
GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
GONE WITH THE WIND may now be a controversial movie, in both racial and sexual respects, but it remains an enduring part of the Hollywood psyche. This may be a twee work, of unabashed sentimentality and broad characters, but the gigantic sweep of GONE WITH THE WIND makes its almost four hour runtime seem insignificant. Two Hollywood legends, Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, give extraordinary performances and the film itself picked up 10 Academy Awards. GONE WITH THE WIND may be long and outdated, but its crowd-pleasing nature makes for a surprisingly entertaining time.
SEVEN SAMURAI (1954)
If you’re willing to spend three hours with subtitles, SEVEN SAMURAI absolutely cannot be beaten. This samurai drama, by master director Akira Kurosawa, is likely the most acclaimed film on this list and one of the most entertaining films ever made. It makes three hours seem like three minutes. It is rich in character development, filled with long action sequences, and emotionally gripping. Everything about SEVEN SAMURAI stands up to the test of time and it is an enduring classic that no one should miss out on.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)
The epic to end all epics, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is a film on a scale that almost no film has reached. Trapping you in a desert expanse for hours, the film feels like a miracle. How could something like this exist? And be so engaging? The story follows British officer T.E. Lawrence and his involvement in Arabia during World War One. Watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA leaves you in awe of the staggering sight of endless sand and truly transfixed on the sheer beauty of the production. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA remains one of the most beloved epics ever made.
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965)
If there’s one director best known for his accomplished epics, it’s David Lean. We mentioned LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but it’s worth highlighting another: DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. This time, Lean focuses on Soviet Russia and tells the story of a physician who lives during a time of revolution and war. Whilst the scale does not match LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, this is a much more intimate film and one of a romance that travels across an enormous distance. It is a human film, filled with intense feeling and heartfelt characters. If you want three hours to pass by easily, you can’t go wrong with David Lean.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966)
Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns are some of the most entertaining visions of the Wild West ever put to film. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is so spectacularly enjoyable that many forget its three hour length. Everything, from the unforgettable score, to the intense widescreen cinematography, to Clint Eastwood’s badass performance, is now iconic. If you want to be drawn into a film for three hours, nothing will drag you in more than the sound and feel of this absolute classic.
BARRY LYNDON (1975)
BARRY LYNDON is a film by Stanley Kubrick, a director who rarely repeated a genre. This stands as his European period piece, filled with lavish sets and fancy characters. Taking cues from classical paintings, every frame of BARRY LYNDON looks like it’s straight out of an art gallery. Some may consider this film Kubrick’s most technically innovative film, even more so than 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, as he used lens from NASA to film by candlelight. But, above all, BARRY LYNDON is a moving tale of a rise and fall, amidst a world of class and dreams.
Sitting with GOODFELLAS and THE IRISHMAN, you could consider CASINO the middle film of the Scorsese – De Niro – Pesci gangster trilogy. It also sits dead middle in terms of runtime, clocking in at almost exactly three hours. Like many of Scorsese’s works, CASINO is a fast-paced film of men and their violent worlds. Set in Las Vegas, everything is more extravagant and larger than life. Even the violence remains some of Scorsese’s most brutal to watch. CASINO may not usually be considered the highest tier of Scorsese’s filmography, but it is still a gangster classic and, as always, doesn’t feel as long as it is.
MAGNOLIA depicts a bunch of different stories interconnecting over just one day in LA. Filled with lyrical coincidences, impromptu singing, and a series of endless emotional bursts, MAGNOLIA is one of the most moving films of its length. The ensemble cast is huge, but Tom Cruise and Julianne Moore stand out as some of the most outrageous characters they have ever played. MAGNOLIA is not huge in scale, for it is intimate and deeply connected to small people in larger stories, but its sweep touches us all and it’s a wonderful ode to life.
INLAND EMPIRE (2006)
Finally, if you want to spend three hours in a state of panic, INLAND EMPIRE is a must-watch. Coming from the mind of Twin Peaks’ David Lynch, INLAND EMPIRE is his most surreal feature-length work. It is a combination of the crude and the art-house. INLAND EMPIRE feels like a horror movie, but also feels like some other type of unexplainable journey. Nothing quite fits together, but there also seems to be an answer. Nothing will leave you quite as confused as INLAND EMPIRE, and for many, that’s exactly where you want to be.
Hopefully some of these films are perfect viewing for the long days stuck inside. If not, there is still a whole world of lengthy cinema to explore. However, if you haven’t seen all these classics, now is a good time to check them out!