Some Films Are As Lengthy As The Day Is Long. Does it matter?
By Renae Richardson
There is something special about going to the cinema. It’s what one would define as magic, a world of pure imagination. Indeed, few don’t remember the first time they visited a movie house or Drive-in. For many, the memories of the first experience invoke pure nostalgia, proving movies are miraculous transformational tonics for the heart, mind, and soul.
Most moving-going experiences turn out for the best, especially those who aim to be entertained. However, some factors may complicate the experience. And the lengthiness of a film is one of those factors. According to a 2021 study, the average movie length of the top ten films was estimated at 2 hours and ten minutes. This is especially impressive given the average attention span of most individuals. The fact that moviegoers enjoy a movie over two hours is astounding. This says a great deal about the quality of a film and its ability to captivate its watchers. However, now and then, a film pushes the boundaries with its extensive run times. They are so extensive that it begs the question of rationality. But some have managed to maintain the attentiveness of the moviegoer despite extensive durations. Here are some of the longest films featured, how they performed, and why they performed as such.
10. Gone With The Wind
Gone With the Wind takes home the blue ribbon for a film with one of the most extended run times. Gone with the Wind, a 1939 feature, had a run-time of three hours and 58 minutes. This long-running dramatic war romance starred young Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and Hattie McDaniel. Despite the decades that have passed, this feature remains one of the most iconic films in film history. It is a cinematic treasure and a marker of the times. According to a 2014 CNN article considering inflation, Gone With The Wind was the highest-grossing film of all time, even beating out Cameron’s blockbusters Avatar and Titanic.” There is much one can contribute to the success of this film. One of the primary reasons was timing. Gone With the Wind premiered in the Golden Age of Cinema when moviegoing was still new and novel. It was a stellar display of what Hollywood magic could do for a story. CNN further notes, “The cinematography, technicolor, performances, music, and the costumes make it an iconic film in Hollywood history.”
9. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Hollywood has always inspired dreams, longing, and the unbridled creativity of the artists who sought to do the unimaginable. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a 2019 champagne toast to everything Hollywood has inspired. But directly, it’s a film about how Hollywood inspired Quentin Tarantino. As Empire notes, “it’s largely a rose-tinted portrait of the Hollywood of the late 1960s and early 1970s: a formative era for the maverick filmmaker’s imagination.” However, one stand-out feature of the film is its length of three hours and 49 minutes. So, the question became why the lengthiness. First, putting a time cap on an inspired piece is challenging. It’s hard to decide which parts deserve chopping when so much is integral to fleshing out a story. Despite its length, Tarantino declared it the best work he’s crafted in a 2022 Variety interview. Given the box office and Oscar nominations, moviegoers agreed with their support. And the academy voted their agreement with several nominations. As Variety notes, “Hollywood” grossed $374 million at the worldwide box office, an impressive final tally for an original drama. And at the 2020 Oscars, the film picked up ten nominations….”
8. LOTR: Return of the King
The Lord of The Rings is one of history’s biggest fantasy-driven franchises. Although it is one of the biggest, according to an October 22 article in Esquire, it could be even bigger, reaching the status of significant players, Star Wars and Marvel. Dey, who brokered the sale of LOTR, is cited by Esquire as stating, “J. R. R. Tolkien’s life work is one of the most imaginative fictional worlds to be created, and so far, it’s been adapted into countless movies, radio shows, and audiobooks, with even a video game thrown in.”
The Lord of the Rings was introduced as a trilogy of films. But the third was the longest, coming in at three hours and 21 minutes. However, there is no question about this feature as to why this film ran so long. And it is more than obvious why it was well accepted despite its length. Nevertheless, if one needs a rationale, the explanation is that the Lord of the Rings already has an established fan base. Fans support what they love and give it a fair shake, no matter how lumbering.
7. The Godfather Part II
No conversation exists on classic films without mentioning The Godfather starring Al Pacino. But why is it so good? Primarily it has the imprint of one of the greatest filmmakers to work in Hollywood, Francis Ford Coppola, and it is considered one of his greatest works. Secondarily it has a talented cast whose acting skills are inspired. Finally, as Cold Wire states, “it is a masterpiece of a film that is held together firmly through a strong cast, world-changing cinematography, and the music that intensifies the strong theme presented.” When films have that combination of offerings, timing isn’t a significant factor. Fans proved this with their support for every film within the franchise, including the three-hour and twenty-minute part II.
6. Schindler’s List
Schindler’s List is one of the most moving films produced and most prolonged, with a three-hour 15-minute run time. This film was so impressive in the story of Oskar Schindler and the tragedy of the Holocaust that schools across the country planned field trips for their students to preview the movie. Schindler’s List benefitted from its cinematography, enthralling story, and Oscar-award-winning cast. This Spielberg film was ground-breaking, thought-provoking, and incomparable to anything featured in the cinema. The acclaim and multiple awards say it all. According to Epiloguers, “the movie received 7 Academy Awards, 7 BAFTAs, and 3 Golden Globes. It was also ranked 8th on the List of the 100 best American films of all time by the American Film Institute and was praised by audiences worldwide.” In this case, timing is a non sequitur, even if it is three hours and fifteen minutes long.
Titanic is a three-hour and fourteen-minute movie in memorial of the tragic sinking of the Titanic. Titanic is also a creative work of James Cameron, one of the most well-known directors in Hollywood history. There is no question of why this film is lengthy. One thing many of Cameron’s films have in common is lengthiness. And given the acclaim, it was not unwelcomed. According to an article in New York Times, this film touched fans globally in a unique way that many movies could not. Cameron has a signature talent, a gift enabling him to reach audiences on another level regardless of the duration of the offering.
4. Green Mile
The Green Mile has an impressive three hours and nine-minute watch time. However, like those above, it is another stellar film with a solid storyline making three hours seem paltry. Green Mile is a 1999 feature starring Tom Hanks as officer Paul Edgecom and the Late Michael Clark Duncan as prisoner John Coffey. The superb acting skills of Duncan and Coffey buoy this film’s tense plot. A gentle giant with a special gift charged with a most egregious crime has touching power that reaches the soul. His ability to touch the guards reveals more about Coffey than the purported evidence under which he finds himself buried. When it comes to the success of the film, Cinemablend frames it best, “The Green Mile is a phenomenal and beautiful cinematic experience, and one that (unlike Shawshank) was recognized for its greatness instantly – earning $286.8 million worldwide at the box office and earning four Academy Award nominations.”
3. Dances with Wolves
No one expected the success of Dances with Wolves. But sometimes the best films are those people sleep on. Dances with Wolves not only starred Kevin Costner, but he directed it. Entertainment said it was Costner’s first time in the director’s chair. But it was not his novice that made many take bets against the film’s success. Many factors could have marred this movie. As Entertainment notes, “Aside from its prodigious running time, the movie was a Western (a genre not popular at the box office in 20 years). It starred an actor with an erratic track record (Costner’s most recent release, Revenge, was a $16 million flop) and paired him with a cast of unknowns.” Yet the film performed successfully. So what could account for the resounding success? Some chalk it up to luck. However, no one will deny that Dances with Wolves was a moving depiction, and it was the right film for the time.
2. Avengers Infinity War
Avengers Infinity War is one of the more recent features with a lengthy time frame. However, the monumental significance of this film to Marvel’s legacy can be identified as rational. The Avengers Infinity War feature marked the end of a Marvel phase. And it was one of the most anticipated and hyped films of 2018. This film was bound to succeed based on the level of fandom for the franchise alone. And it did succeed. According to Vox, at its opening Avengers Infinity War had the biggest opening weekend of any movie in history. Vox notes, “In North America, the Marvel movie opened to more than $250 million, blowing past Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ $247.9 million.” In retrospect, time was the last topic for fans of the Marvel Universe.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
The last film on the List with a three-hour watch time is Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. The Wolf of Wall Street was a dramatic portrayal of riches to rags. It was the portrait of the greedy stockbroker and a fall from the apex of success and seeming untouchability. A writer for Vanity Fair summed up the best explanation for this film’s success. In the words of Katey Rich, “It’s fun because it is insane, passionate, leave-it-all-on-the-field cinema from one director and a ton of performers who know exactly what they’re doing.
Time is usually a significant factor in what some filmgoers determine to be watchable and enjoyable films. However, when it comes to good cinema, time becomes a non-factor, as exemplified by the ten features mentioned. Summarily, what matters is the strength of content and the excellent transference of such. That is a fact.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Official Paramount Trailer