25 must-watch three-hour movies to help you pass the time
“May you live in interesting times” may sound like a curse in our current moment, but here we are, dealing with a world that is rapidly changing environmentally, biologically, and emotionally. It’s a lot to process. But while it can’t be helped, sometimes we need extended distractions, and there’s no better way to escape the tsuris of the world than to immerse yourself in an epic movie. Three hours may seem like a lot to ask, but you’ve sat through “Titanic,” “The Godfather” and those ridiculously long Harry Potter movies. Now is the time to indulge in that daunting movie you’ve been putting off for decades. Who knows? You can get information from the past about the problems of the present!
25 must-watch three-hour movies to help you pass the time: Berlin Alexanderplatz, Out 1, Angels in America, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Children of Paradise, Public Housing, The Leopard, 1900, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Hamlet, Heaven’s Gate, Intolerance, Blue Is the Warmest Color and more
And when you’re done with 12 hours of conspiratorial madness, the only way to top it is to get hooked on Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15-hour adaptation of Alfred Döblin’s Weimar Republic classic, “Berlin Alexanderplatz.” The film, about, more or less, an ex-convict who is implicated in the murder of a prostitute, was released in theaters in the US but, for obvious reasons, was never shown all at once. That’s not a problem for those of us who suddenly lock ourselves in! Accept the “Berlin Alexanderplatz” challenge. Fifteen hours, from the ass to the sofa, a cup of coffee ready. This is the time of the heroes of extreme cinema.
You can choose to watch Jacques Rivette’s 12-hour magnum opus in three-hour snippets, or if you want to do the late great New Wave filmmaker proud, you can gear up for a raunchy session on Fandor (available through Amazon Prime) and try of making sense of wild, Pynchon-esque narrative all at once. Or you could watch the much more accessible “Celine and Julie Go Boating” by Rivette, which is a mere 192 minutes long. But in these dark days of sheltering in place, you have to.
“Angels in America”
The greatest play of the second half of the 20th century was adapted with tremendous sensitivity by Mike Nichols for HBO, where the two-part play is currently available in one-hour episodes or two three-hour performances. The latter is the closest it will get to theatrical productions, which are separated as “Millennium Approaches” and “Perestroika.” They’re best experienced on stage over the course of two nights, but seeing them together in a session on HBO is powerful in its own right. Now that Roy Cohn’s protégé is leading the country to ruin, Tony Kushner’s play has taken on a dimension unexpectedly absurd (and frustrating).
“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”
Stanley Kramer’s delightfully mean-spirited stellar comedy is hilarious despite its epic scale. Cars are destroyed on a whim; a plane nearly crashed on a runway (Carl Reiner once told me that he literally touched the plane as it buzzed off the tower); a service station is leveled. None of this is particularly funny, but the film’s sheer chutzpah, exemplified by its 205-minute runtime, somehow wins you over.
“Children of Paradise”
Marcel Carné’s decadent romance stars Arletty as a courtesan who is pursued by four suitors who come from very different backgrounds. The film was surreptitiously made during the Nazi occupation of France as a real-life version of Ernst Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be” and is considered by many to be the greatest French film of all time. He is certainly the most daring. François Truffaut said he would “give up all my movies to have directed ‘Children of Paradise,'” in case you needed any more teasing to finally see this classic.
Most of Frederick Wiseman’s documentaries are available on Kanopy, and they’re all worth your attention, but this in-depth look at life in a Chicago housing project might just be his best work. At 200 minutes, it is not easy to sit down. Wiseman’s observational style allows his subjects the freedom to tell their own story through their everyday behavior. The cumulative effect is a stunning indictment of segregated and economically disadvantaged living. Wiseman won’t come out and say it, but it’s clear that these people are trapped in poverty by design.
“Beyond what we can touch with our own hands, we have no obligations.” Luchino Visconti’s poignant drama about the last days of the Italian aristocracy centers on the dusty, dilapidated home of Prince Salina (Burt Lancaster), a wealthy man who can’t stop what’s coming and slowly makes peace with it. . The 205-minute version that won the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival was shortened to 161 minutes and poorly dubbed by 20th Century Fox. Twenty years later, Visconti’s favorite 185-minute cut appeared, and that’s the only version worth watching.
Visually, “1900” is as mind-bogglingly beautiful as any collaboration between director Bernardo Bertolucci and his brilliant cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. This four-hour historical epic is worth indulging in for the carefully crafted visuals alone. As for the story, let’s just say that the narrative about the friendship between a rich landowner (Robert De Niro) and a peasant (Gérard Depardieu) is much more fascinating in theory than in practice. The excellent supporting cast, including Donald Sutherland, Burt Lancaster, Alida Valli, and Sterling Hayden, provide most of the highlights.
“Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”
Tedium is the point of Chantal Ackerman’s experiential masterpiece that plunges the viewer into the mundane life of a widowed housewife (Delphine Seyrig). You might not think you want to watch a 221-minute movie about a woman doing everyday chores and chores, but as the film progresses, Ackerman gradually reveals a deep and disturbing truth about the mechanical lives women are often forced into. to live.
Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film remains the gold standard for big screen performances of Shakespeare’s most celebrated and produced tragedy, but Kenneth Branagh’s 70mm staging is the only film to feature the full text ( Shakespeare’s plays are usually trimmed down to keep running times low). four hours and two minutes, Branagh’s company occasionally drags on; he sometimes stumbles upon the stunt cast of pentameter-struggling Americans (Jack Lemmon is sadly particularly poor in this regard). But the main cast is in excellent shape; Branagh, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, Richard Briers, Kate Winslet and Michael Maloney bring the Shakespearean thunder in full force. The treble is well worth the pauses.
Michael Cimino’s late western is much more notorious than it looks, which is unfortunate because despite its challenging moments (particularly the Harvard graduation sequence which is much more about atmosphere than story progression) , has an unusual expansion and rhythm that seeks to replicate the tempo. of the time depicted in the film. You definitely have to give Cimino time to hook you, but you may be surprised to find yourself completely entranced by his fierce attention to detail and era-specific customs, even in the graduation sequence!
Technically five minutes shy of the three-hour threshold in its most recent iteration, D.W. Griffith’s silent milestone can, like many silent epics, feel a bit like a chore. It is not. Though it peaks early with its opening Babylon segment, featuring some of the most extraordinary sets ever built in the history of the medium, every shot is charged with the sense of discovery. The final chapter, “The Mother and the Law”, is a pioneering cross-piece without which it is difficult to imagine the films of Hitchcock, Ford, Clouzot, etc.
“Blue Is the Warmest Color”
Abdell Kechiche’s emotional epic traces the sexual awakening of a teenage girl (Adèle Exarchopoulos) who falls in love with a seductive blue-haired art student (Léa Seydoux). It is an overwhelming and erotically charged depiction of first love: a portrait of the longing, the consummation, and the madness that goes with it. The leads are exceptional (despite their director’s supposedly caustic behavior on set), imbuing the family’s arc of relationship with a deep feeling that stays with you long after the film’s conclusion.
Stanley Kubrick’s meticulously staged version of William Makepeace Thackeray’s picaresque novel may strike you as overly mannered, but once you enter the film’s deliberate, painterly wavelength, you’ll find yourself completely intoxicated by the filmmaker’s precise compositions. Kubrick had Zeiss modify the 50mm lenses used during the Apollo moon landings so that he and cinematographer John Alcott could shoot interiors by candlelight (to accurately approximate the 18th-century look). Ryan O’Neal is perfectly cast as a vapid schemer who proves wholly unreliable as the narrator of his life story.
Now that you’re stuck at home and the Academy has just given a foreign film with subtitles the Oscar for Best Picture, you have no more excuses! It’s about time you finally settled in for Akira Kurosawa’s hugely entertaining and influential film about a group of rōnin hired to protect a small town from a horde of marauding bandits. It could be the fastest 207 minutes you’ve ever experienced, and you’ll finally know the power and glory of Toshiro Mifune’s roguish Kikuchiyo. Enjoy.
The first hour of Spike Lee’s masterful biopic is a boisterous and beautifully shot recreation of the thriving nightclub scenes of 1940s Boston and Harlem. There’s a full musical number, loads of explosively funny trash talk, and a terrifyingly seductive performance from Delroy Lindo as the numbers runner who teaches a young “Detroit Red” in the art of the hustle. This is the hook that draws you in. Then when Malcolm receives enlightenment from the Nation of Islam and finds his voice as a leader, it’s Denzel’s show. It’s an energetic 202 minutes that will leave you shocked and excited.
While many of us had to watch Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” and the NBC miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth” in Sunday school, William Wyler’s more visually spectacular and entertaining “Ben-Hur” tends to be the strange biblical epic. . This 222-minute tale of a Jewish prince (Charlton Heston) challenging the Roman Empire certainly doesn’t jump off the blocks at top speed, and its most exciting sequences, particularly the chariot race, are best seen on a towering screen. cinema. . But after a slow start, it becomes quite immersive in its own right, and at least a vivid reminder of how they used to make them.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s captivating meditation on the rigors of artistic creation and the nature of faith demands the viewer’s full attention. Every minute detail of this medieval Russian epic is vital to understanding the whole, to the point that a single viewing will probably leave you speechless. However, you will not feel dissatisfied. “Andrei Rublev” is an invigorating piece of technical cinema imbued with a passion that is not always manifest in Tarkovsky’s work. It is the perfect starting point for those looking to explore the films of the Russian master.
“Once Upon a Time in America”
Sergio Leone’s swan song moves away from the mythical sweep of his spaghetti westerns. While it certainly comes across as great entertainment, the film’s non-linear structure lends it a narrative and thematic complexity that offers us a tantalizing glimpse of how Leone’s sensibilities might have evolved if we hadn’t lost him too soon at the age of 60. years. a sumptuously shot and engineered film with a magnificent score by Leone’s longtime musical partner, Ennio Morricone. If “The Irishman” had you craving more Robert De Niro/Joe Pesci gang collaborations, this will satiate you and more. The rest of the cast – Elizabeth McGovern, James Woods, Tuesday Weld, Burt Young and Treat Williams – are also excellent.
“War and Peace”
Clocking in at 431 minutes, Sergei Bondarchuk’s Soviet-funded adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel is every bit as intimidating as its notoriously lengthy source material. The four-part epic was recently restored and released by The Criterion Collection, and it’s apparently a revelation. Modern critics have hailed it as a visually bold and exciting achievement that keeps the viewer spellbound for the entirety of its considerable runtime. Filmed over the course of six years with thousands of Russian soldiers taking part in its massive battle scenes, this is a large-scale movie that could never happen today.
An absolute gem. Edward Yang’s sprawling family drama documents the triumphs and heartaches experienced by three generations of the Jian family living in Taipei. Wu Nien-jen is very understanding as an unconditionally loving father who is deeply unhappy with his work. Each member of the family is going through something that may seem minor in the grand scheme of the universe but that distresses them intensely; in other words, it is life as we all experience it. Jonathan Yang, as the youngest member of the family obsessed with photography, is the film’s scene-stealing champion.
James Dean’s latest film is a Texas-sized epic about love, oil, bigotry and much, much more in the Lone Star State. George Stevens’ adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel stars Rock Hudson as a wealthy rancher who falls in love with a Maryland socialite (Elizabeth Taylor) and brings her back home to share her fortune. Dean plays a poor tinker who envies Hudson’s wealth and ultimately dwarfs her when he discovers a deep oil reservoir on his land. It’s an old-fashioned Hollywood classic with dazzling star turns, outlandish production design, and a heart as big as its surroundings.
“Fanny and Alexander”
Skip the 188-minute theatrical cut and immerse yourself in the 312-minute television version of Ingmar Bergman’s semi-autobiographical story about two young brothers who, following the sudden death of their father, retreat to the haven of their fertile imaginations as a means of enduring a difficult parenting. Unlike most of Bergman’s films, “Fanny and Alexander” exudes a warmth that occasionally teeters on the edge of sentimentality. The extension can be daunting, but this is by far the most accessible work of his and one that will leave you feeling surprisingly optimistic about human nature.
“The Right Stuff”
Remember when America’s can-do hubris was backed up by the selfless action of people with unique expertise? Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s new journalism masterpiece about the early days of the US space program focuses on the Mercury Seven astronauts (played by a variety of character actors and future stars) and the glory they bring. fades out of test pilot Chuck Yeager. (Sam Shepard). It’s an inspiring, often raucously funny film that slides through its 193-minute runtime at Mach 3 speed. You’ll savor every second.
“Lawrence of Arabia”
You know that many critics and moviegoers consider David Lean’s epic one of the best films ever made, but have you ever spent four hours of your day sitting down and watching it? Perhaps you were waiting to see it projected in 70mm on the big screen. Even if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a theater equipped for this kind of showing, you’ll probably have to wait a long time for the next showing. So now is the time! Cast it on the biggest TV in your home and let Lean’s widescreen compositions, Robert Bolt’s witty and incisive script, and Peter O’Toole’s deep blue eyes wash over you. This movie contains an embarrassment of pleasures.