We’ve all sat through our fair share of movies that have dragged on for what seems like an age, and it’s not uncommon these days to see blockbusters flirt with a three hour runtime. But that’s pocket change compared to the longest movies ever committed to celluloid. These behemoths will test the most dedicated of cinephiles and put even the strongest bladders to the test as we move from biblical epics and Chinese fisherwomen, to anti war documentaries and cultural revolutions. Not your usual Adam Sandler fare.
Before we go any further, there are movies technically longer than these (a 35-day real time journey of how pedometers are produced? No thank you very much) but those are classified as experimental movies. We’ve decided to keep it purely cinematic, although good luck making it through any of them, as they make even Boyhood feel like a coffee break.
1. Resan (The Journey), 1987
How long is it? 873 min (14 hr, 33 min)
The Journey, or Resan in Swedish, is the longest cinematic movie ever made. A documentary feature about the impact and threat of nuclear war, The Journey was funded by the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, the oldest peace movement association in the world. A (*deep breath*) Sweden-Denmark-Norway-Scotland-Canada-USA-Mexico-Australia-West Germany-Soviet Union-France-Polynesia-Mozambique-Japan co-production, English writer and director Peter Watkins travelled across five continents over four years to interview people for the film.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because if you start watching when you wake up, everyone else can do a full day’s work, go to the gym, make dinner, and probably do a couple of episodes on Netflix before you’re done.
2. Out 1 (Noli me tangere), 1971
How long is it? 773 min (12 hr, 53 min)
Out 1 sprung from the French New Wave of the 1970s, a peek into the worlds of two theatre groups attempting to put on a play. Jam packed full of pretension, the ‘Out’ part of the title was director Jacques Rivette’s response to the word ‘in’ which had become fashionable at the time (as in ‘in-crowd’), while the number 1 was added to give the impression that the characters’ lives would continue in sequels. But don’t worry, you only have the 13 hours to contend with. There is also a four hour 13 minute cut of the movie if you want a slightly easier version, but it’s this mammoth edition you’ll need to sit through for full marks.
Why you’ll never watch it: It features whole half hour sections of experimental theatre complete with interpretative movement and wailing. Unless that does it for you, of course.
3. How Yukong Moved the Mountains, 1977
How long is it? 763 min (12 hr, 43 min)
How Yukong Moved the Mountains, directed by Dutch filmmaking husband and wife team Joris Ivans and Marceline Loridan-Ivans, documents the last days of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, one of the most significant times in the country’s modern history. Split into 12 shorter ‘movies’, it shows snapshots of everyday Chinese life, including a rehearsal at the Peking Opera, traditional handicrafts, and the fisherwomen of a rural village, and it’s all, quite frankly, charming. Its title refers to a traditional Chinese fable of willpower and perseverance called The Foolish Old Man Removes the Mountains.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because you could literally fly to China and witness everyday life for yourself in the time it takes to watch it.
4. Evolution of a Filipino Family, 2004
How long is it? 647 min (10 hr, 47 min)
Shot over the course of ten years and on minimal resources, Evolution of a Filipino Family is pretty self-explanatory in its narrative. It charts the fall and subsequent revival of a poor farming family, apparently symbolising the history of the Philippines from 1971 to 1987. Award-winning director Lav Diaz is well known for making ‘slow cinema’ with his films often lasting several hours, so if you want to watch his full back catalogue, you’re going to need to put some serious time aside. Remarkably, Diaz actually lost the first cut of the movie, with 11 hours of film down the drain.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because you could binge watch an entire season on Netflix in that time, and, let’s face it, which are you most likely to do?
5. Shoah, 1985
How long is it? 613 min (10 hr, 13 min)
There have been countless films made about the Holocaust, but few are quite as affecting and thought-provoking as Shoah. Despite what you might expect, it uses no documentary footage, instead relying almost solely on interviews with those closely associated with the atrocities. Director Claude Lanzmann speaks with former inmates, barbers responsible for cutting prisoners’ hair, ex-Nazis, and more, digging into the minutiae of what happened rather than skirting round the broader topics. Shoah is held in incredibly high regard (it was voted the second greatest documentary of all time in 2015 by the British Film Institute), but it is very long.
Why you’ll never watch it: Any movie about the Holocaust is a tough watch, so to keep at it for over ten hours is no easy task.
6. Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, 2003
How long is it? 551 min (9 hr, 11 min)
Remember How Yukong Moved the Mountains we mentioned earlier? Well Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks is linked to the same topic. With the rise of the free market and foreign trading, some of China’s manufacturing industries took a hit. Split into three sections, West of the Tracks takes a closer look at the impact this decline had on one particular region of the country and how its residents and workers coped.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because you need a whole half a weekend to watch it and you really should think about leaving the house.
7. Death in the Land of Encantos, 2007
How long is it? 540 min (9 hr)
We’re back in the Philippines with our good friend Lav Diaz and his 2007 look at the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Durian the previous year. Mixing fact and fiction with actors and actual residents, Death in the Land of Encantos focuses on a Filipino poet who returns from Russia to mourn those he’s lost and reconnect with those still alive.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because you’re shattered from work and you can barely stay awake past dinner. There’s no way you’ll do nine hours.
8. Heremias (Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess), 2006
How long is it? 540 min (9 hr)
Guess who? Yup, it’s Lav Diaz with another of his famous pieces of ‘slow cinema’. This time it’s a fabulously-titled nine hour epic about travelling salesman Heremias who has his ox cart (which is his whole livelihood) stolen from him, before falling in with the corrupt police force, and questioning his faith in God. All pretty heavy stuff, as you’ve probably already noted with Mr Diaz’s work. There is a second part in Heremias’ tale, The Legend of the Invisible Island, although this is much less well known and clocks in at a comparatively sprightly two hours.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because you’re still only a fraction of the way through Lav Diaz’s other films. Seriously, Lav, give us a chance.
9. Taiga, 1992
How long is it? 501 min (8 hr, 21 min)
Taiga, taken from the Russian name for the huge expanse of rainforest covering Siberia and Russia, is a documentary by German filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger putting the spotlight on the nomadic reindeer tribes of northern Mongolia. The three-part movie examines the tribes’ unique and fascinating culture, including a wedding ceremony, rituals performed by local shamen, and, in one of the livelier scenes in the movie, the tribe’s very own version of the Olympic Games. We even get to see a spot of ceremonial wrestling, in which the victor receives a lamb’s breastbone. Or Thursday as it’s known at GR+ HQ.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because that nagging voice in the back of your head keeps reminding you that you could be watching four whole films in the same amount of time as this one.
10. A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, 2016
How long is it? 485 min (8 hr, 5 min)
Who else but Lav again (I think we’re probably on first name terms by now) with the most recent movie on the list. The somewhat pretentiously-titled A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery weaves interconnected storylines during the Philippine Revolution at the turn of the 19th century. Considered Diaz’s most personal work, although not one of his best, this might be one for the purists (or film students) who are used to his movies with their long, slow takes, lack of score, and all but completely static camera work.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because when the movie was shown at a Berlin film festival, the audience laughed out loud when one character uttered “In a little while, the pain shall end.” That tells you pretty much all you need to know.
11. The Photo-Drama of Creation, 1914
How long is it? 480 min (8 hr)
As the title suggests, The Photo-Drama of Creation is a religious work, featuring 96 Bible lectures accompanied by classical music, and although you may not be familiar with it, it’s actually kind of a big deal. This is because it was the first major film to incorporate synchronised sound, moving film, and colour slides. It was produced under the gaze of Charles Taze Russell, whose Bible Student Movement was the precursor to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because after a couple of hours you’ll remember you’re watching a 1914 biblical propaganda movie and put Die Hard on again instead.
12. El protegido de Satán, 1917
How long is it? 480 min (8 hr)
Translated literally as ‘Satan’s Protege’, it’s clear that El Protegido de Satán probably isn’t good first date material. Directed by Spaniard José María Codina (who was incredibly proficient over a ten year career), little is really known about the movie. So little in fact, that it seems no-one really even knows what the heck it’s about.
Why you’ll never watch it: Because you’ll probably spend longer than its eight hour runtime actually trying to find anything about the damn thing.