Alfred Hitchcock once said: “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder”. As such the theatrical cut of his longest film, North by Northwest clocks in at two hours and sixteen minutes, while most of the rest of his films fall around the two hour and under mark.
Some directors have made amazing feature films that are very economical in their running time, a prime example being Pickpocket by Robert Bresson (1h 15 mins). While others have made sprawling epics well over three hours, such as Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (3h 7 mins) and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the longest of which, The Return of the King runs at over three hours and twenty minutes, and that’s not even counting the extended edition…
Making a long movie is something many studios are wary of as the longer a movie is, the more difficult it is to persuade an audience to sit through it. As such it is imperative that the movie is not only engaging, but also that it is worthy of its running time.
Many of the movies on this list aren’t necessarily terrible movies, many of them have their merits and are simply in drastic need of a reedit, while some do have issues that extend further back than that.
10. Spectre (2015, 2h 28 mins)
Following Skyfall, one of the best Bond movies ever, and a box office smash hit was always going to be difficult. However, with the same director and most of the same writers on board, expectations were high.
Spectre promised to deliver the seriousness of the Daniel Craig era mixed with the campy, over the top antics of the Sean Connery/Roger Moore era. In some ways it succeeded, the first twenty minutes of the movie set in Mexico City ranks as one of the best action sequences ever shot in a Bond film. It set itself a high bar and unfortunately, the movie goes downhill after that.
The film follows James Bond (Daniel Craig) as he is set against the global criminal organisation Spectre and their leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). Bond discovers that Spectre and Blofeld were behind the events from the previous three films as he attempts to prevent their plan to launch a global surveillance network.
Spectre is an incredibly polished film, it features stunning cinematography with Hoyte van Hoytema shooting on 35mm Kodak film stock, great music and overall solid direction from Sam Mendes. However, the film has a lot of problems, the decision to connect the movie to the events of the previous films and to say that a global organisation of baddies was behind it all makes the story not only convoluted, but also difficult to believe after the gritty realism of Craig’s previous outings.
The brilliant Christoph Waltz is wasted here and doesn’t make for a compelling villain, and Craig who was so brilliant now looks incredibly bored. Daniel Craig said “(I) would rather slash my wrists than play James Bond again”, however with the actor said to reprise his role again in Danny Boyle’s Bond 25, let’s take that as a good sign that his next, and possibly final outing will be a return to form.
9. Manakamana (2013, 2 hours)
Two hours is not a very long film by any means, however many films with that running time often have a plot of some form that pads the movie out. In contrast, the 2013 documentary film Manakamana lacks what would be considered a conventional narrative. Instead the directors of the film: Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez take a more experimental approach to the subject.
Manakamana records the journey that pilgrims take via cable car to the Manakamana temple in Nepal, the sacred place of the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati. Shot in real time, using long takes, the films subjects range from an old man and a boy, who go through the journey without speaking a word to each other, to a group of tourists taking selfies, to five goats just standing there.
Critically acclaimed upon release, Manakamana is a fascinating film and not a bad one by any stretch, but it is perhaps best viewed in segments as short films which examine human behaviour, as when it is viewed as one two-hour film, it can become quite humdrum.
8. Robin Hood (2010, 2h 36mins)
It feels like we’ve been here before and with much better results. Ridley Scott knows how to direct a great historical epic, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven (The Director’s Cut) count amongst some of his finest films.
Therefore, it was easy to get excited about this one, the pairing of Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott and writer Brian Helgeland (LA Confidential), with a stellar supporting cast including Oscar Isaac, Cate Blanchett, Mark Addy and Max von Sydow in a gritty reimagining of the Robin Hood myth seemed like it was going to be a thrilling action-period-piece. The final result however, was less than stellar.
Dry and humourless, this reimagining of the English myth sees Robin Hood as a veteran archer who has returned from the Third Crusade, and along with his companions tries to prevent a French invasion of England by going up against the corrupt English who side with the French.
Robin Hood features some solid direction; it is evident that Scott is very capable in directing complex battle scenes. However, its overly portentous tone makes the film dull to watch. Indeed at least Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves had some sense of campy fun about it.
7. The Lone Ranger (2013, 2h 29mins)
The Lone Ranger is an insane film, a $250 million western based on a 1950s television show of the same name, starring Johnny Depp, a white actor playing a Native American character and directed by Gore Verbinski (probably best known for The Pirates of the Caribbean series).
How it ever got greenlit is a miracle considering everything it had going against it. As such, many critics savaged the film upon release with some naming it as one of the worst films of the year and it was a box office bomb, barely making back its production budget.
The film isn’t as bad as some critics made it out to be and has some fans (Quentin Tarantino included), it’s mostly just very uneven. Indeed, it’s worth watching the first 45 minutes then to skip the majority of the middle and then just watch the final twenty-minute train sequence, it’s spectacular and just as exhilarating as anything in Mad Max: Fury Road.
6. The Da Vinci Code (2006, 2h 54mins)
The film follows an intriguing whodunit premise: after becoming the prime suspect for a gristly murder inside the Louvre, Robert Langford (Tom Hanks) is on run for the discovery of the Holy Grail for which the clues of its location are included in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting: The Last Supper. Pursuing him is a secret society which seeks to keep the location of the grail a secret to protect Christianity.
With a stellar cast that includes Tom Hanks, Audrey Tatou, Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany, directed by the always reliable Ron Howard and based on Dan Brown’s bestselling novel of the same name. The Da Vinci Code promised to be a slightly trashy but thoroughly entertaining thriller.
Unfortunately, the film squanders its intriguing premise and the final product feels convoluted and bloated. It also doesn’t help that Akiva Goldsman’s script doesn’t give Tom Hanks much to work with apart from to explain the plot from time to time. Fortunately for the producers, the film was a huge box office success. Unfortunately for us, it spawned two equally dull sequels.