I understand the impulse to be reluctant or even hostile towards movies that require a greater time commitment than most others. I want to state it up front: I get it. I especially understand this when, the more movies I watch, the more I learn about wanting or needing to watch, and the more important it is that I try not to “waste” my time by devoting more than a couple of hours to worthless material.
The problem is that any movie contains this level of risk (and let’s be real—this is a relatively microscopic amount of actual risk when it comes to how we spend our leisure time), and we can’t really be certain whether the time we spend watching a movie will reward that risk. We have filmmakers and performers we trust and reviewers we rely upon, but ultimately it comes down to a bit of a crapshoot.
It’s also probably true that a terrible 3-hour movie will be more agonizing than a terrible 90-minute movie. Meanwhile, it’s more tricky to argue that an outstanding short movie, like say, Gravity, is less meaningful or satisfying than an outstanding long movie, like The Wolf of Wall Street. There’s something to be said for efficiency in storytelling, but also a value in taking the time to explore a story with sufficient depth and detail.
What does seem to be clear is that the length of a movie itself is not a reliable determining factor on how worthwhile the viewing experience will be. Roger Ebert was famous for saying that no awful movie can be too short and no excellent movie can last too long.
To demonstrate that, here are 8 terrific long movies that may seem excessive but are indeed worth the prolonged focus.
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