Everybody loves a good movie. Movies are so intertwined with our daily living that they actually make up a substantial part of who we are. We may not want to admit it, but so many internal references and decisions we make have to do with the movies we have watched. So many of our external actions are based upon characters we have fallen in love with or scenarios we have seen on the screen only to attempt to emulate such scenario in our real lives. I’m not saying that movies rule our lives – our childhoods for sure – but I’d like to think that as we age we become more independently minded.
Movies and the act of watching this type of media is however something that becomes entrenched from an early age and it’s almost a natural part of modern-day living. It’s been a part of our collective experience since the 1930s. I watch a new movie at least once a week and as time has gone by I’ve realised that most fall by the wayside of my psyche. Many are remakes or similar takes on old ideas with few managing to emotionally engage me. However, there are movies generally accepted to be true classics. These are movies that despite the ravages of age have stood the test of time and are accepted by film institutions and large segments of the film-going public as classics. I’ve come to find that most classics tend to be 3 hour movies, give or take.
With this in mind, allow me to touch upon the 5 best 3 hour movies out there, and ones that I have actually seen.
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I’ll kick things off with one I come back to every now and then to simply savour and enjoy. Watching 1972’s The Godfather can be likened to sipping on a fine wine. This movie fails to depreciate and is rightly listed as one of the greatest American movies of all time. Based on the book by Mario Puzo, the same guy who wrote the first two Superman movies (1978 & 1980), The Godfather is an engrossing movie about a mafia family that only relies on violence when it has to. Crafted with a deft hand by its director Francis Ford Coppola and brought to life by a host of skilled actors including the likes of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan and Diane Keaton to name but some, The Godfather is a sprawling epic that takes its time to tell its tale but will never leave you bored or dissatisfied.
The Deer Hunter
The 1970s were really a special time in the world of the movies. Young directors who would come to re-shape the way we saw things were on the up and up. Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Michael Cimino were not just wowing critics, they were entertaining audiences. The latter of that lot, Michael Cimino, gave us The Deer Hunter in 1978. I’ve seen this movie just once and I can honestly say I don’t need to see it again. If I had to, I would watch it again, but it’s not something I rush back to view over and over. My reluctance stems from the pace and the length. At 183 minutes, The Deer Hunter takes its own sweet, and in many ways justified, time to unpack its three act arch. In today’s age patience and stamina would be required to sit through this film that at times take so long to progress, and lingers on certain scenes and segments so much, that you can mistake it for being nothing but indulgent. A prime example of 3 hour movies.
It’s been years since I watched 1995’s Braveheart, a movie that really is the crowning achievement of its star, Mel Gibson. With Braveheart, Gibson really came into his own as a film-maker and took on the roles of producer, director and lead – no small feat – to deliver an epic tale of grunge and swordplay. Backed by a moving soundtrack and both an overplayed yet very convincing hero on the behalf of Gibson, Braveheart delivers on action and drama and pulls the heartstrings big time. This one is just shy of 3 hours but its long length is completely justified.
The Lord of the Rings
The amazing thing about The Lord of the Rings is that you can really elect to watch any three of these movies and garner great viewing pleasure. If I were to say which one it is I enjoyed most, then it would be the first one, 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring. I won’t forget it either. I went to the late show and at the time I didn’t know it was going to clock a solid 178 minutes. I didn’t feel one bit of those 178 minutes, that’s how good The Fellowship of the Ring is. From the start this fantasy adventure epic will hold your attention while giving you very little time to breathe.
We can’t talk about 3 hour epics without talking about 1997’s Titanic. In comparison to many of his peers, James Cameron’s list of movies is short, but when he delivers, he makes up for lost time. A true film pioneer, Cameron has always invested his time into technology geared towards improving upon the entire film-making process. Aside from creating new technology, Cameron’s movies often focus on the telling or retelling of a simple story, often a love story, woven into a new world and thus designed to emote new sensations from the viewer. With Titanic his intention was Romeo and Juliet within the setting of this ship’s disastrous maiden voyage. The numbers don’t lie. A 200 million dollar budget in 1997 was unheard of, but then so was the box office take of 2.187 billion dollars. Titanic is a triumph of production design and emotional drama.