Screenshot: Lawrence of Arabia/Columbia Pictures
The tendency in movie runtimes seems to be trending toward length, and even if the data doesn’t really bear this out, recent, superlong installments in big box office franchises like Marvel and James Bond (the movies being watched the most, that is) at least mean the bloat feels real. For some reason these wildly popular series feel the need to justify their existence by lashing us to our seats for well over two hours when many of us might have happily paid the same price for a flick that would give us the hope of ever getting home to see our dogs again.
Still, a movie’s quality isn’t determined by its length. For every movie that goes on way longer than it needs to, there’s another that feels compressed by its relatively shorter length. Some stories are just as effective when they take their time—either because they have so much to say and do that nothing feels wasted, or because we’re allowed to luxuriate in a compelling world with interesting characters. As Roger Ebert once said, no good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.
So here are some truly great movies, all of which run at least two and a half hours (most of them, much longer) and all of which also justify their runtimes by generally make every second worth the sit.