It’s nice to find yourself with time to spare. Some might have more free time than others, some may find themselves with periods of their lives less busy than others, while some may only find time to spare on occasion. It depends on your stage in life and profession, of course, but everyone deserves a day spent on the couch every now and then.
For those with time to watch more movies than usual, the following best long movies to watch – ranked from long to longest – may well be worthy candidates for your watchlist. Each is well over three hours in length, meaning they’re all fairly serious time commitments. They’re rewarding films, though, and ideal for patient viewers who don’t mind a long sit, and are already familiar with some of the more famous epic films out there.
Updated on August 1, 2023, by Jeremy Urquhart:
Long movies are clearly here to stay, with many 2022 releases hovering at – or even exceeding – the three-hour mark, and now one of 2023’s biggest releases, Oppenheimer, also has a three-hour runtime. 3-hour movies might not be for everyone, and certain 3-hour films are definitely better-paced than others, but you have to admire a long film that also manages to be compelling for a long time, which the movies below manage to do.
20 ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) – 181 minutes
Christopher Nolan‘s no stranger to long, dense movies, but Oppenheimer proves to be one of his most dense, and also his longest. Memorably released the same day as the much brighter Barbie, Oppenheimer is about J. Robert Oppenheimer, particularly regarding his development of the first atomic bomb.
It’s got an absolutely massive cast, featuring what feels like half of Hollywood, and a narrative that spans many years while being unafraid to jump between them, all out of order. It’s a compelling character study and a psychologically intense movie, keeping things moving and suspenseful for all 181 minutes of its epic runtime.
19 ‘Magnolia’ (1999) – 189 minutes
Paul Thomas Anderson is a filmmaker who’s no stranger to making movies that easily exceed two hours, but even by his standards, Magnolia is long. Easily among the best 3-hour-long movies, it also needs to be, given it follows a large group of characters whose lives sometimes intersect in unexpected ways throughout the film, culminating with an unusual climax that (sort of) brings them all together.
It makes for a powerful viewing experience though, with numerous great actors all giving fantastic performances. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the lives of the flawed and deeply human characters in Magnolia, making it an intimate drama on a scene-to-scene basis, contrasted with an epic runtime and a very large cast.
18 ‘Babylon’ (2022) – 189 minutes
Babylon may have divided critics, but the notorious box office flop from 2022 has its fans, and its reputation may well grow as time marches on. It’s a film about the end of the silent era in cinema and the dawn of talkies, and looks at this historically significant event through the eyes of several characters who are all involved with the film industry on some level.
It was a time of big productions and even bigger after-parties, which means that Babylon‘s a film that uses a huge runtime to depict and reflect such excesses. It moves fast and balances numerous tones and characters, keeping things interesting. And though it’s exhausting to watch, that feels like an intended emotional reaction, rather than an unfortunate result of subpar filmmaking.
Watch on Paramount+
17 ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ (2022) – 192 minutes
The wait was worth it, because while Avatar: The Way of Water may have taken 13 years to finally come out, the results were truly astounding and huge. It’s a bigger movie than the first Avatar, running about half an hour longer and exploring more of Pandora than ever before.
James Cameron can deliver when it comes to epics, as demonstrated all the way back in 1997, with Titanic. The Way of Water is another success for the filmmaker, and those who get particularly wrapped up in the film’s story and characters may well find themselves feeling as though 192 minutes wasn’t enough.
Watch on Disney+
16 ‘The Emigrants’ (1971) – 192 minutes
One of the greatest Swedish movies of all time and one of the underrated long films of the ’70s, The Emigrants is part 1 of an epic story about a Swedish family immigrating to America. They do this in the mid-19th century, which means the film ultimately captures the horrors and struggles of traveling between continents at a time well before technology made international travel relatively safe and straightforward.
It’s certainly not an easy watch, and doesn’t pull any punches in showing the brutal reality of a migrant’s life back in the mid-1800s. It’s a powerful film, though, and so well-made that even though it’s not necessarily fast-paced, it’s quite immersive and ultimately makes its 192-minute runtime go by relatively fast.
15 ‘The Right Stuff’ (1983) – 193 minutes
The Right Stuff is far from your usual historical drama/biographical film. It tells the real-life story of the Mercury Seven, who were the USA’s original astronauts who participated in various dangerous missions (including early space travel) in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
It’s a film that tackles this story in a way that’s anything but dry or boring. It moves well for a movie that exceeds three hours, and has plenty of thrills, humor, and memorable characters to keep viewers engaged. It was, unfortunately, a box office bomb at the time of release, but was critically acclaimed, and is well-deserving of the praise it’s garnered in the years since 1983.
14 ‘Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’ (1975) – 202 minutes
Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is a film that aims to make the audience feel every one of its 202 minutes. It’s not fun to watch, but that’s by design, as it sheds light on the life of the titular Jeanne Dielman, following her over three days as she cleans, cooks, runs errands, and generally goes unappreciated or even unnoticed by the people around her.
Her routine changes a little over the three days that she’s followed within the movie, and it’s these subtle differences that build to a surprising conclusion. It’s a psychological drama that might be one of the slowest slow burns of all time, but it’s also highly acclaimed, and even earned the top spot in the 2022 Sight & Sound critics poll.
Watch on Max
13 ‘The New Land’ (1972) – 204 minutes
Part 2 of the story that began with The Emigrants, The New Land follows the same family after having arrived in America from Sweden. They imagine that now they’ve reached their destination, things will be easier, but living outside a main settlement in the middle of America proves to have its own unforeseen challenges.
It feels distinct from the first part while also seamlessly continuing the story, which makes the whole saga a remarkable and devastating 6.5-hour-long epic. Such a film may well be daunting for many people to try and watch, but those who give their time and energy to The Emigrants and then The New Land will be rewarded with a pair of great films.
12 ‘The Human Condition I: No Greater Love’ (1959) – 206 minutes
The Human Condition I: No Greater Love is just one part of a huge trilogy that runs for over nine hours. Released in three parts between 1959 and 1961, The Human Condition is among the greatest World War II movies of all time, following a conscientious objector who finds himself forced to fight within the Japanese Army.
Still, given the three films were released separately while telling one story, it’s not fair to lump them all together for the purposes of assessing the longest movies of all time. That being said, even just one third of the trilogy ends up being a huge and appropriately exhausting movie to watch, with this first installment being almost 3.5 hours long.
Watch on The Criterion Channel
11 ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (1980) – 219 minutes
While Heaven’s Gate might not be for everyone, it is undeniably a bold and underrated film, and one not deserving of all the criticism it got at the time of its release. It’s a truly epic western at over three-and-a-half hours, and follows violent clashes between wealthy cattle farmers and immigrants who live in poverty – based on real events that happened during the Johnson County War near the end of the 19th century.
It’s an overstuffed movie for sure, working in large-scale battle scenes, almost too many characters, and even a romance subplot, for good measure. But the size of the film and its ambition is awe-inspiring, and even if not all the elements work flawlessly, there are still enough moments of greatness to make Heaven’s Gate worthy of critical reevaluation.
Watch on Prime Video
10 ‘A Brighter Summer Day’ (1991) – 237 minutes
Before making what was likely his masterpiece in 2000 – Yi Yi – Edward Yang directed another film that’s considered one of the greatest of the past few decades by film aficionados. It’s a coming-of-age/crime film called A Brighter Summer Day, and is set in Taiwan during the 1960s, focusing on a young boy and the obstacles that come his way when it comes to growing up, maintaining friendships, and falling in love.
It’s a slow but beautiful film, and ends up an immensely rewarding experience for those willing to stick with it for almost four hours. It’s a film that’s easy to fall into, due to the way it looks and feels, and because of how immersive it is. There’s a version that’s closer to three hours, but the four-hour cut is seen as the director’s definitive version.
Watch on The Criterion Channel
9 ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ (2021) – 242 minutes
In 2017, a theatrical version of Justice League was released, and it clocked in at only two hours long. It felt messy and poorly paced, due to the scope of the story and number of characters, with a whole heap of stuff not being given enough room to breathe. It carried Zack Snyder‘s name, as he was credited with directing it, but it didn’t truly feel like his movie.
Several years later, something resembling Snyder’s vision was released, title Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It’s certainly the superior version of the film, though it takes about twice as long to watch. Mostly, it earns that runtime, besides a few scenes after the climax that feel like odd, somewhat awkward set-ups for future movies that will probably never happen.
Watch on Max
8 ‘Hamlet’ (1996) – 242 minutes
Most film versions of Hamlet – one of William Shakespeare‘s most famous works, and maybe his definitive tragedy – aren’t anywhere near four hours long. This is because most adaptations of Hamlet edit the lengthy play down to make the runtime more digestible. However, director/actor/world’s #1 Shakespeare fan, Kenneth Branagh, wanted to do no such thing with his 1996 adaptation.
As such, this film version of the Prince of Denmark’s quest for revenge is a long but impressive Shakespeare adaptation. Those who aren’t fond of Shakespeare might want to seek out a shorter version that cuts out certain subplots and characters, but for those who want to see all of Hamlet on-screen, this 1996 movie is where it’s at.
7 ‘The Sorrow and the Pity’ (1969) – 259 minutes
The Sorrow and the Pity is a documentary that’s focused on the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. It covers multiple years and highlights a turbulent and dramatic time in the country’s history, and uses a runtime of well over four hours to provide a very comprehensive look at its central subject.
It’s a difficult movie to watch, owing to that runtime and the challenging subject matter, with the film overall being dense and even overwhelming. Still, it proves to be rewarding for those who have the patience to get through it and engage with the topics it brings up, making it one of the most essential war documentaries about WWII.
6 ‘Les Misérables’ (1934) – 281 minutes
There are a surprisingly large number of Les Misérables adaptations, but this almost five-hour French adaptation made in the 1930s is arguably the best. Like Branagh’s Hamlet, it uses its huge runtime to its advantage, and is able to include more from Victor Hugo‘s famed novel than any other film adaptation (the miniseries versions, of course, end up being able to cover a similar amount of material).
Given the novel is split up into parts, so too is this film, with three in total. It might be best to watch each 90-ish minute chunk on its own, with breaks in between, because otherwise it might become overwhelming. On the other hand, for viewers who like to get sucked into an ambitious epic and find it more immersive to watch a huge story like this play out all in one go, it is still possible to watch the 1934 adaptation of Les Misérables in an afternoon.
Watch on The Criterion Channel
5 ‘1900’ (1976) – 317 minutes
Featuring an impressive cast led by a young Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu, 1900 is a gigantic film. Given it shows the lives of its two main characters across multiple decades – beginning chronologically in the year 1900 – it does arguably need all the time it can get, to tell its ambitious story.
Beyond the 5+ hour runtime, it’s also challenging for its content and themes. It has some brutal violence and other uncomfortable scenes, and also details the horrors of fascism in unflinching detail. Getting through it really does give you the feeling of having watched someone’s entire life play out, and as challenging as the movie is, it’s undeniably the length that contributes to this sense of seeing a lifetime condensed into one film.
Watch on Prime Video
4 ‘Near Death’ (1989) – 358 minutes
Near Death is a confronting and difficult documentary by design. Simply put, it tackles death in unflinching detail, and follows doctors at an intensive care unit, the patients they care for who are near death, and the struggles the family members of the patients feel as the end approaches.
It’s probably only going to appeal to hardened documentary fans, and even then, the six-hour runtime and subject matter could still deter some of them. However, those brave enough to face Near Death may find themselves coming out the other side of this staggeringly long documentary about death with a new outlook on life.
Watch on Kanopy
3 ‘The Best of Youth’ (2003) – 366 minutes
Some might classify The Best of Youth as a miniseries rather than a film, given it was conceived as a miniseries, but was released theatrically in certain markets, and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. As such, it rides the line between miniseries and movie, but however you classify it and watch it, one thing’s for certain: it’s very long.
The Best of Youth uses its six-hour runtime to cover the lives of a family over many years, starting in 1966 and ending in 2003. It’s an emotional and very well-made drama about love and life, and is surprisingly easy to get immersed in. It feels long, but not in a bad or boring way, and is up there with the best 3+ hour movies of the 21st century so far.
2 ‘Satantango’ (1994) – 432 minutes
Satantango has a reputation for being one of the longest (and most difficult) films of all time. It’s a grueling watch by design, having a very slow-paced story centering on a small, rundown village in Hungary, with its population facing great hardships after the fall of Communism.
Even by the standards of movies exceeding three hours, it’s a challenging watch. Still, many who’ve finished the film hail it as a masterpiece, and on Letterboxd, it’s ranked among the top 50 best movies of all time. Curious viewers do need to know what they’re getting into beforehand, but it’s undeniably a film that – once watched – can’t be forgotten.
Watch on Kanopy
1 ‘Shoah’ (1985) – 569 minutes
Not only is Shoah one of the greatest documentaries of all time, but it’s also up there as one of the longest. It goes for 9.5 hours and is comprised almost exclusively of interviews with various people whose lives were altered by the Holocaust during World War II, including concentration camp victims, soldiers, and townspeople who lived near the horrific death camps.
It’s a movie that needs to be long, as the approach best captures the gargantuan nature of the terrible historical event the documentary covers. Shoah is an incredibly hard film to sit through, but it’s a powerful experience and stands as perhaps the definitive film about the Holocaust.
NEXT: The Best Non-American War Documentaries of All Time