If audiences think Avatar: The Way of Water’s runtime is long, they may be surprised to learn the runtimes of the lengthiest movies ever made.
Movies remain one of the greatest equalizers, but there's a growing level of excess that continues to creep into cinema. A tight 90-minute film that doesn't belabor itself has become increasingly rare, and in an age where franchise fare and genre epics reign supreme, it's more and more common to have movies that exceed three hours.
2022 alone had a nearly three-hour Batman movie, Damien Chazelle's Babylon, and James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water. There are already rumors that the third film in Cameron's sci-fi series will have a nine-hour cut. Audiences have clearly grown more accustomed to lengthy cinematic experiences. Still, there are some especially extreme movies (excluding documentaries and experimental cinema) that truly push the limits of a conventional runtime.
Some of the most remarkable stories are the ones that highlight the indomitable will of a single soul and the difference that they can make. Sátántangó is a Hungarian film that's more than seven hours long, and it's based on a novel of the same name that's steeped in real-life tragedies.
A humble farm that's on the precipice of closure sees any possible future taken away from them when a former co-worker, presumed dead, makes a very bold return. It's a depressing meditation on loss that wallows in these conditions and ends on a crushing note that's only amplified through the stark black-and-white cinematography.
2008's Melancholia from the Philippines, not to be confused with Lars von Trier's movie of the same name, is a powerful meditation on change that's divided into three sections and an epilogue that ties them all together. Melancholia is seven-and-a-half hours long, so each of its three sections could qualify as their own film under different circumstances.
Each section follows an afflicted soul who attempts to conquer a bad habit and attain peace of mind through different forms of unconventional therapy. It's an incredible look into routine as well as both the pros and cons of reinvention.
A fairly recent movie that came out of Japan in 2020, The Works and Days is eight hours of focus on the minutiae that Tayoko, an elderly farmer from the Shiotani region, experiences. The Works And Days is divided into five chapters, and it's just as interested in Tayoko's inactivity as it is when she has a busier slate.
In doing so, The Works and Days gives an honest presentation of not only this woman's life, but the region itself as fourteen months transpire. Fascinating highs and lows are seen in this span of time.
Laz Diaz is an acclaimed Filipino filmmaker, and 2016's A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery is a staggering movie that's unsurprisingly one of his most polarizing projects. Coming in at just over eight hours, Diaz's film attempts to demystify Andrés Bonifacio, a revolutionary figure from 19th century Philippines.
There's a dreamlike fantasy component to A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery that eschews a typical narrative in favor of a more fairy tale and expressionistic deconstruction of this icon. A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery still managed to fare well at the Berlin International Film Festival, in spite of its laborious length.
Heremias: (Book One: Legend Of The Lizard Princess) is the most unruly crime road drama this side of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Heremias is a destitute farmer who stays from better judgment and finds himself involved with a group of criminals. Heremias begins to regret his actions when an innocent girl, Helena, becomes a victim of his destructive actions.
Heremias comes out of this painful experience with newfound empathy and ready to atone for his sins. Despite its nine-hour length, Heremias ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. While there were initially plans for a sequel, Heremias: Book Two – The Legend of the Invisible Island, they remain incomplete.
Not to be confused with Disney's Encanto, a movie that can be watched more than five times in the time that it takes to finish one viewing of Death in the Land of Encantos. The nearly-nine-hour film delicately allows Filipino poet, Benjamin, to return to his hometown of Padang and put to rest his complicated relationship with this country, its people, and its past.
Death in the Land of Encantos almost feels like a funeral dirge. Benjamin slowly marches closer to his death, but not before he makes peace with these revelatory stepping stones from his life.
The Philippines is responsible for several of the longest films of all time, and there's a compelling relationship for long-form narratives where the full weight of an experience can be processed. Another entry by Laz Diaz and more palatable than A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, Evolution of a Filipino Family stays true to its name.
The nearly-ten-hour epic painstakingly details the death and possible rebirth of a simple farming community. Diaz's laborious effort focuses on the specific, but these struggles become a metaphor for over 15 years of authoritarian strife in the Philippines during the 1970s and '80s.
Out 1 is a masterpiece in interconnected narratives, and the film's nearly 13-hour runtime follows a number of unscrupulous individuals who find themselves at a crossroads following France's civil unrest during the 1960s. A con artist and other heightened personalities are on display in eight different chapters, all of which are the length of a feature film themselves.
Out 1 brilliantly uses the power of time to turn the concept into a character in and of itself. Since much of Out 1 exists independently of the other narratives, a condensed four-hour version, Out 1: Spectre, is also available.
La Flor blurs the line between narrative and experimental cinema as it presents six chapters, which are seemingly only linked through the use of the same four actresses and recurring themes of rebellion and legacy. Some of these stories play straightforwardly, but several mess around with chronology and engage in meta experiments where it feels like the film's performers are turning against the director and audience.
La Flor is no small feat at more than 13 hours. However, the movie's chapters are so playful and cover everything from supernatural mummy attacks to eternal youth potions.
The Innocence, also known as We Will Make a Cinema, is the ultimate binge-watch and one viewing takes nearly an entire day. Currently holding the title for the longest non-experimental film ever made, The Innocence uses the power of filmmaking to prop up a desperate nation's hopes, dreams, and identity following the destabilizing aftermath of the Bangladesh Liberation War.
People from all walks of life struggle and thrive as they make sense of an uncertain tomorrow, albeit one that's infinitely more optimistic than their decided pasts. Hopefully, Kevin Feige doesn't decide to take inspiration from filmmaker Ashraf Shishir when it comes to the runtime for Avengers: Secret Wars.
NEXT: 10 Short Films That Would Be Better Full-Length Movies
Daniel Kurland is a freelance writer, comedian, and critic, who lives in the cultural mosaic that is Brooklyn, New York. Daniel’s work can be read on ScreenRant, Splitsider, Bloody Disgusting, Den of Geek, and across the Internet. Daniel recently completed work on a noir anthology graphic novel titled, "Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Noir: A Rag of Bizarre Noir and Hard Boiled Tales" and he’s currently toiling away on his first novel. Daniel's extra musings can be found @DanielKurlansky on Twitter.