Some movies are perfect for a quick watch after dinner on a weeknight. These are not those movies. Save these five-, seven-, and even 14-hour films for a rainy weekend when you have nothing else to do. Here are 10 of the longest movies ever made.
“Cleopatra” (4 hours, 6 minutes)
“Cleopatra” was the most expensive movie ever made at the time of its release, which helps explain why it failed to turn a profit despite also being the highest-grossing film of 1963. Joseph L. Mankiewicz's lavish biopic featured massive sets, elaborate costumes, and high-end talent — namely Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who played the lead roles in this historical epic that went on for a whopping four hours and six minutes. It is considered the longest Hollywood movie to ever receive a wide theatrical release, but any number of international filmmakers would consider it short.
“Napoléon” (5 hours, 32 minutes)
One of those international filmmakers would be Abel Gance, who took on another historical leader nearly 50 years earlier. Rarely screened but widely revered by those who’ve had the privilege of seeing it, this silent epic from 1927 focused on the military great’s early years. “Napoléon” starred Albert Dieudonné as the man himself, and the innovative picture was so well received that even the famously contrarian French New Wave filmmakers adored it. Restored and re-edited many times over the last 93 years, it continues to cast a shadow as long as its runtime.
“Sátántangó” (7 hours, 19 minutes)
Béla Tarr's movies are not for the faint of heart — or those who haven't cleared their afternoon. "Werckmeister Harmonies" and "The Turin Horse" both clock in at around two-and-a-half hours, but even those runtimes pale in comparison to the Hungarian auteur’s 439-minute "Sátántangó." Based on the novel of the same name by László Krasznahorkai, the 1994 film follows a group of villagers eking out a bleak existence following the collapse of their communal farm. It may also be the most acclaimed entry on this list: On the 2012 "Sight & Sound" critic's list of the greatest films of all time, “Sátántangó” placed 36th.
"O.J.: Made in America" (7 hours, 43 minutes)
At the time of its release, there was debate over whether "O.J.: Made in America" was a movie or a miniseries. The line between the two has become increasingly muddled in the streaming era, but considering that it premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, was released in theaters, and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the cinematic bona fides of Ezra Edelman's “O.J.: Made in America” are ultimately beyond dispute. More important than its format is the fact that this extensive look at the life of O.J. Simpson is genuinely excellent whether you watch it in bits and pieces or in one fell swoop.
“Shoah” (9 hours, 26 minutes)
Claude Lanzmann's 566-minute masterwork may be the definitive cinematic account of the Holocaust, as well as the longest. (The Holocaust is known as "Shoah" in Hebrew.) Its length is more than justified given not only the subject of the 1985 documentary — which was personal for the Jewish filmmaker, who joined the French resistance during World War II — but also its scope and quality. Widely considered one of the greatest nonfiction films ever made, “Shoah” won awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics, International Documentary Association, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts, among many others.
“Evolution of a Filipino Family” (10 hours, 25 minutes)
No one makes long movies like Lav Diaz. The Filipino filmmaker rarely bothers with anything shorter than five hours, but not even "Melancholia" (450 minutes) or "A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery" (485 minutes) match up to 2004's "Evolution of a Filipino Family." At 625 minutes, or nearly 10.5 hours, it charts the trials and tribulations of a farming clan while also paying close attention to the ways in which the Philippines itself changed over a 16-year period beginning in 1971. Diaz is one of world cinema’s most respected filmmakers, though few are bold enough to give his movies the time of day.
“Out 1” (12 hours, 53 minutes)
Jacques Rivette was a luminary of the French New Wave, with films like "L'amour fou" and "Celine and Julie Go Boating" popping up on many Francophiles' lists of the greatest films ever made. He wasn't afraid of testing his audience's patience — "Celine and Julie" is just over three hours, while "La Belle Noiseuse" is nearly four — and his willingness to go all in on a project was at its most daring in “Out 1.” Inspired by Honoré de Balzac's "La Comédie humaine," the 1971 film is seven minutes shy of a full 13 hours and divided into eight different sections that are all feature-length themselves. Rarely screened outside of film festivals and retrospectives, “Out 1” also appeared on the most recent "Sight & Sound" list, where it occupied the #127 spot.
“Crude Oil” (14 hours)
Speaking of directors with an affinity for protracted running times, Wang Bing outdid himself with 2008’s “Crude Oil.” Even with movies like “Dead Souls” (495 minutes) and "Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks" (551 minutes) to his name, the Chinese auteur’s longest is this 2008 documentary clocking in at exactly 14 hours. Most of his ultra-long projects are nonfiction, which partially accounts for their length: Wang takes an exceedingly thorough approach to documenting his subjects, in this case the workers of an oil field in the Gobi Desert. In 2017, he shocked everyone familiar with his body of work by releasing the 86-minute "Mrs. Fang" — and, for his efforts, won the Locarno Film Festival's prestigious Golden Leopard.
“La Flor” (14 hours, 28 minutes)
Fourteen-and-a-half hours may sound like a long time — and, in truth, it is — but time flies when you’re watching 2018’s “La Flor.” And, considering that it took Argentine director Mariano Llinás a decade to make his magnum opus, a little more than half a day isn’t that much of a time commitment — especially for a genre-bending experiment like this. Featuring the same four actresses in six different stories, the film ranges from B movie and spy thriller to musical mystery and everything in between. It’s strange and unwieldy, yes, but also well worth its runtime.
“Amra Ekta Cinema Banabo” (21 hours, 5 minutes)
No, that isn’t a typo — this Bangladeshi drama written and directed by Ashraf Shishir really does take almost an entire day to watch, making it the longest non-experimental movie in history. Set during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, "Amra Ekta Cinema Banabo" ("The Innocence") was released in its home country in late 2019 and has subsequently been preserved in the Bangladesh Film Archive.
The list gets even longer when you take experimental art films into account, dozens of which make “La Flor” seem like a 30-second commercial.
“Logistics” (2012) is officially the longest movie ever made. It’s an experimental documentary about the production cycle of a pedometer that’s played in reverse chronological order. The total runtime is 857 hours! Yes, you have to set aside more than one full month to watch this movie in its entirety. Other extreme experimental films include:
- “Modern Times Forever” (2011) — 240 hours
- “Cinématon” (2009) – 150 hours
- “Beijing 2003” (2004) – 150 hours
- “Untitled #125 (Hickory)” (2011) – 120 hours
- “Matrjoschka” (2006) – 95 hours
Feature Image Credit: LightField Studios/ Shutterstock