The Longest (American) Movies of All Time

Hamlet_2Looking at information for the DVD release of the German film Heimat III this week, I was surprised to note that it has a running time of 11 1/2 hours. I was surprised because that’s less than half the time of its predecessor, Heimat 2, which at 25 1/2 hours holds the Guinness record for the longest film. More specifically, for the “Longest Film Commercially Shown In Its Entirety.” (For the record, the first Heimat was 15 1/2 hours.) R. W. Fassbinder’s 15 1/2 hour Berlin Alexanderplatz was also recently released in the US on DVD.

I guess those Europeans just have more stamina than us. I know of plenty of examples of world cinema that run four, five or six hours, but only one American film that makes the four hour mark. I adhere to the old adage that a bad film is always too long, but a good one is never long enough. And especially in the wintertime, when the sun is only out for a few hours anyway, what better way to spend those long nights than with a movie that eats up an entire evening?

So I sat down to make a list of the fifty longest English-language films. Rules: No re-edited "director’s cuts" for DVD, though I did count releases that were shortened for wide release (a fairly common practice for epic films in the 1950s and 60s).  TV series and serials didn’t count. Nor did experimental movies (sorry Andy Warhol fans) or made-for-tv movies. An alternate way to think of this list is, what was the longest any producer expected Americans to keep their butts in a theater seat? Take a jump and see what I came up with.

• Hamlet (1996) (242 mins.)
• The Iceman Cometh (239 mins.)
• Gods and Generals (231 mins.)
• Once Upon a Time in America (229 mins.)
• Lawrence of Arabia (227 mins.)
• Gone With the Wind  (226 mins.)
• Heaven’s Gate (220 mins.)
• Ben-Hur  (212 mins.)
• Exodus (208 mins.)
• War and Peace (208 mins.)
• Apocalypse Now Redux (202 mins.)
• The Alamo (202 mins.)
• Malcolm X (202 mins.)
• The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (201 mins.)
• Giant (201 mins.)
• The Godfather Part II (200 mins.)
• Dr. Zhivago (197 mins.)
• Intolerance (197 mins.)
• Pepe (195 mins.)
• Ryan’s Daughter (195 mins.)
• Schindler’s List (195 mins.)
• Titanic (194 mins.)
• Reds (194 mins.)
• The Right Stuff (193 mins.)
• It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (192 mins.)
• Nixon (192 mins.)
• Tess (190 mins.)
• At Play in the Fields of the Lord (189 mins.)
• Hawaii (189 mins.)
• JFK (189 mins.)
• Nicholas and Alexandra (189 mins.)
• Gandhi (188 mins.)
• The Fall of the Roman Empire (188 mins.)
• The Green Mile (188 mins.)
• King Kong (2005) (187 mins.)
• The Birth of a Nation (187 mins.)
• Short Cuts (187 mins.)
• Judgement at Nuremberg (186 mins.)
• The Deer Hunter (185 mins.)
• Barry Lyndon (184 mins.)
• Spartacus (184 mins.)
• Woodstock (184 mins.)
• Around the World in 80 Days (1956) (183 mins.)
• O Lucky Man! (183 mins.)
• Pearl Harbor (183 mins.)
• El Cid (182 mins.)
• Fiddler on the Roof (181 mins.)
• Dances with Wolves (180 mins.)
• The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers  (179 mins.)
• The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (178 mins.)

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