Recent reports claim that Martin Scorsese’s upcoming and highly anticipated 2023 movie Killers of the Flower Moon will have an estimated runtime of four hours. If true, that would make it one of the longest movies in Hollywood history — if it surpasses the four-hour mark, it could even become the all-time longest. Although it would require some commitment on the audience’s part to stay still for that long, many people will doubtlessly be all-in for a four-hour ride from Scorsese.
Sitting through a four-hour film is something of an endurance test, especially considering that most movies barely cross the two-hour mark. However, some select movies need more time to tell their sprawling and larger-than-life stories. In Hollywood history, a number of films have surpassed the three-hour mark, becoming famous or infamous, depending on whom you ask, for their prolonged lengths. Love them or hate them, these films rank as the longest in Hollywood history, so find a comfortable place and kick up your feet because if you decide to watch them, you’ll be there for a while.
Elizabeth Taylor stars opposite Richard Burton and Rex Harrison in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s overblown 1963 historical epic Cleopatra. The film chronicles the legendary rule of the titular Egyptian queen amid increasing Roman intervention, including her romances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Featuring lush production values and a delicious central performance from Taylor, Cleopatra more than earns its excessive length. Once the most expensive movies ever made, Cleopatra presents a highly fictionalized version of history, focusing more on the queen’s romantic escapades than on her now-legendary rule. However, the spectacle is so grand, the sets so impressive, and the costumes so stunning that one can’t help but sit back and admire the film’s sheer and shameless ambition.
Based on the eponymous 1936 novel, Gone with the Wind is among cinema’s most acclaimed pictures. Vivien Leigh stars as Scarlett O’Hara, the manipulative and spoiled daughter of a wealthy plantation owner who has a romantic interest in her cousin’s husband. However, the arrival of the roguish Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable, changes her plans, with the two beginning a turbulent love affair.
“Epic” is not a good enough word to describe Gone with the Wind, one of the all-time most popular films. Timeless and arresting, the film is a sweeping romance that ranks as one of the few films that can be genuinely described as a true cinematic experience. While now considered to be culturally insensitive by many people, Gone with the Wind remains highly regarded.
Kenneth Branagh sure loves his Shakespeare adaptations. He might have peaked with his 1989 take on Henry V, but his adaptation of Hamlet is nearly as impressive. The British actor and director plays Prince Hamlet, who learns that his murderous uncle is set to marry his widowed mother shortly after his father’s death. The supporting cast is a who’s who of British acting royalty, including Kate Winslet as Ophelia, Derek Jacobi as Claudius, and Julie Christie as Gertrude.
Loyal to a fault to the source material, Hamlet is a love letter to Shakespeare’s now-timeless text. Branagh brings out the best in his stellar cast — particularly a tragic Winslet as Olivia — crafting an exquisite adaptation of an iconic play. He delivers a sprawling tale of revenge and loyalty that earns every minute of its four-hour runtime.
Zack Snyder’s controversial and much-discussed director’s cut of the maligned 2017 Justice League finally materialized in 2021, and it was worth the wait. Set after Superman’s death, the film centers on Batman and Wonder Woman’s efforts to unite the Justice League to fight Steppenwolf, a general from Apokolips who arrived at Earth with intentions to conquer it for Darkseid.
Suitably larger than life and surprisingly thoughtful, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a vast improvement over the 2017 version. Fleshing out its godlike characters in service of a classic superhero story, the film breathes life into the Justice League with an emotionally resonant tale about identity and duty. And while Snyder’s vision for the DC Universe is all but dead, at least he got to bow out with a grand adventure that ranks among the best modern superhero movies.
Sergio Leone’s epic crime drama Once Upon a Time in America stars Robert de Niro and James Woods as two childhood best friends who become key figures in the Jewish criminal community in 1930s New York.
Once Upon a Time in America has had several versions, including the original theatrical release, which clocked in at 139 minutes. However, Leone’s director’s cut chronicles a whopping 251 minutes of Prohibition-era violence. Although some have criticized the film for its perceived sexist and misogynistic undertones, Once Upon a Time in America remains a milestone in the crime genre and one of the most brutally honest and insightful depictions of the gangster world in American cinema.
Ronald F. Maxwell’s epic war drama Gettysburg stars a large ensemble, including Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen, and Sam Elliott. The film dramatizes the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg and is based on the 1974 historical novel The Killer of Angels by the late Michael Shaara.
Gettysburg‘s directors cut clocks in at a mighty 271 minutes of Civil War glory that will satisfy some and overwhelm others. Gritty and remarkably realistic in its raw depiction of the three-day conflict, the film is a challenging viewing experience for those unfamiliar with the events, especially for its decidedly biased portrayal of the battle. However, Gettysburg is ultimately a worthwhile and rewarding picture that ranks as one of the all-time best war movies, if only for Jeff Daniels’ career-best performance as Joshua Chamberlain.
Serving as a prequel to Gettysburg, Gods and Generals reunites Maxwell with most of the original’s cast. The film focuses primarily on Stonewall Jackson, chronicling his life from the early days of the Civil War to his death.
Gods and Generals is even longer than Gettysburg, but infinitely less gripping or interesting. Far less discrete in its pro-Confederacy themes, the film is tedious and nearly unbearable, with Maxwell’s vision proving cold, clumsy, and sometimes outright laughable. Like Gettysburg, Gods and Generals has a director’s cut that clocks in at 280 minutes, so good luck to anyone brave or dumb enough to sit through this one.