Recently I was having a chat with my composer Christopher Farrell about film length. He had mentioned one filmmaker whose films tended to be a little long. I joked that my own films seem to turn out much shorter than I had intended (namely Claustrophobia). It got me thinking about the longest movies I'd ever seen. Here they are, from "shortest" to most butt-numbing. I'm not including Gone With the Wind because I only saw it once, as a child, and I'm not sure if I watched the entire thing. (I am also not including Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom, part 1 or part 2, even though I saw both 4-hour parts in the cinema, because like other famously long foreign films such as Berlin Alexanderplatz, Das Boot, and Fanny and Alexander, The Kingdom was made as a TV series in Trier's native country, and not as a theatrical feature. So it doesn't count.)
- TITANIC, 194 minutes. It still amazes me that this incredibly long and frankly awful film is the all-time box office champion.
- SCHINDLER'S LIST, 195 minutes. You'd think James Cameron would have wanted his 1997 boat movie to top Steven Spielberg's 1993 Holocaust epic by a minute. But maybe the King of the World decided not to outdo the earlier, better film's length.
- THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, 201 minutes. I'm not even talking about Peter Jackson's extended "director's cut" of this film. What made it into the theatres was actually two hundred and one minutes long. You sense a theme, here? Make a movie as long as it could possibly be, and you'll win the Best Picture Oscar.
- APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX, 202 minutes. Francis Coppola's own director's cut of his cult Vietnam drama saw a brief release several years after the original movie came out. I believe I saw it, though the details are hazy. Did I catch it in cinemas or at a friend's house on DVD?
- THE SEVEN SAMURAI, 207 minutes. As with a lot of long movies, Akira Kurosawa's samurai masterpiece has been shown throughout the years and across the world in various lengths. But I saw this, the full, original version, a few years back. It's maybe the least boring of all the films on this list.
- EUREKA, 217 minutes. This obscure 2000 film from Japan (a nation not unfamiliar with drawn-out dramas) is a contemporary fable about the random survivors of a fatal bus hijacking. Not only over three and a half hours long but also filmed in black and white, Eureka is a challenge, but not without its rewards.
- LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, 227 minutes. This was another one of those "re-released in its full glory after decades!" experiences, somewhere around 1990. I saw it and, even with the intermission, and watching it on the big screen in 65mm and everything, I found it a bit dull. Sorry fans.
- HAMLET, 242 minutes. So Kenneth Branagh set out to make a film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet - unabridged (and also in 65mm, not that Branagh made much use of this). The result is hardly a classic - Branagh's hammy Hamlet really blows a couple of scenes - but it's a decent enough introduction to the full play.
- 1900, 315 minutes. Bernardo Bertolucci's epic (what else can I call it?) about two friends/enemies in early 20th Century Italy has lots of shocking moments - including a shot featuring the erect penises of both Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu (at least they were both still young and not fat) and a particularly disturbing scene of Donald Sutherland raping and murdering a little boy - but in the end there's no need for this dull, knee-jerkingly pro-Communist drama to have been over five hours long.