Three-Hour Movies That Are So Good They Seem So Much Shorter


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If a movie is bad, it doesn’t matter how short it is. There are more movies than human beings can count that come in at a tidy ninety minutes and are next to impossible to sit through because they’re boring, poorly made, or in possession of some other defect that you can’t ignore.

By the same token, if a movie is really good, the length won’t matter either. You’re invested, you’re on board, and when the credits roll, you’ll say in a surprised voice, “It’s over?” Here’s our list of movies that are almost three hours or longer but are so entertaining you won’t feel the time pass.

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‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ (2002)

Every movie in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy is at least three hours long, and in each case, you don’t feel the time, even when the final installment, “Return of the King,” goes through its numerous endings. But there’s something about the middle installment, “The Two Towers,” that makes it the most enjoyable of the three films and the one you’re most likely to stay wholly invested in. Since it’s the middle film, it’s free from having to set up or end the story, so it plunges you right in at the deep end, and it’s a fast-paced and tight three-hour ride. The final battle at Helm’s Deep is also completely off the hook.

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‘Titanic’ (1997)

Don’t take our word for this one. “Titanic” is the fourth-highest-grossing movie of all time, an accolade it would never have earned without multiple repeat viewings on the part of the audience. It also still holds up, and as much as we’d all like to pretend we’re too cool to be taken in by this 194-minute movie with that stupid Celine Dion song, most of us remember spending its third hour weeping hysterically, with snot and everything, hoping against hope that the star-crossed lovers Jack and Rose can somehow swim to safety.

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‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962)

“Lawrence of Arabia” has a lot working against it, not the least of which is its nearly four-hour running time. A true epic with a large ensemble cast, it’s tempting to go into it thinking it will be unnecessarily bloated and padded to reach its epic running time. However, the truth is that it remains entertaining on a grand scale, even when there’s nothing on the screen but Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, and a lot of sand. People who enjoyed the recent “Dune” movies should see this to see where director Denis Villeneuve likely got some degree of inspiration for their look and feel.

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‘The Godfather: Part II’ (1974)

“The Godfather” is a truly great film, so much so that it’s understandable if people feel there’s no way a sequel could live up to it. “’The Godfather: Part II” not only lives up to it but somehow surpasses it, with excellent performances all around and unique storytelling that depicts an older Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in the 1950s and a younger Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro) establishing himself as a crime boss. There’s no replacing the first movie, and you won’t understand the sequel if you haven’t seen that first, but if you’ve done your due diligence, you will be surprised to see the many ways in which this movie outshines its predecessor.

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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ (2022)

“’Avatar: The Way of Water” is 192 minutes long and the third-highest-grossing movie of all time. As with “Titanic,” this long-awaited sequel got lots of repeat viewings, which would never have happened if the public had found the movie boring. If anything, the 13-year wait ensured that the movie’s special effects were like nothing filmgoers had ever experienced before, including the first “Avatar” movie. If you missed it in theaters, wait until it comes back around again because seeing this epic 3D film on a small screen with just two dimensions is a waste of your time.

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‘Braveheart’ (1995)

Mel Gibson may be canceled for various statements he’s made and beliefs he’s held, but as long as “Braveheart” remains in his repertoire, it’s a cancelation in name only. It’s a wildly entertaining movie, and it’s impossible to watch without getting wrapped up in it, even though it’s one of the most historically inaccurate films ever made. Additionally, seeing a 40-ish Mel Gibson play a character in his 20s is inadvertently hilarious. Even with all that going against it, it’s diverting from start to finish, and the battle scene in the middle of the movie has to be seen to be believed.

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‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)

Many movies that reach the three-hour mark are doing so to position themselves as “Oscar bait,” as the facile assumption is that any film of that length is a historical masterpiece of great import. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is historical in that it’s based on actual events, but the stuffy boredom sometimes attendant in long and self-important movies is nowhere to be found here. The story of real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, the movie is riotously obscene and has too much nudity and drug content to be boring. It’s a blackly comic ride through the wretched excesses of Wall Street, and it doesn’t let up for one second.

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‘Apocalypse Now Redux’ (2001)

In 2001, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola returned to his 1979 war film “Apocalypse Now” and expanded it with 49 minutes of previously unseen footage, stretching it to 202 minutes. Strangely, the movie’s original cut felt long at 147 minutes, but this more extended version somehow has flow and momentum that the original theatrical version didn’t. Of course, if you didn’t like the original movie, you’ll like this one even less, but if you enjoyed it and want to see a more fleshed-out version, this is the one to see.

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‘Blood In Blood Out’ (1993)

“Blood In Blood Out” tells the story of three young Mexican-American men in an East Los Angeles street gang whose lives diverge in three different directions. The movie was not a financial success, and the critics didn’t care for it upon release, but time has been kind to it, and it’s worth seeing. Even if you don’t care for prison movies, drug movies, or cop movies, you will not be bored by it, and you may even wonder why it was so poorly received in the first place.

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‘Casino’ (1995)

To some people, Martin Scorsese’s 1995 film “Casino” is just a pale imitation of his 1990 film “GoodFellas.” They have a point – much of the cast is the same, it’s a movie about organized crime, and it even has the same relentless voiceover as its predecessor. If you can get past all that, “Casino” is a very entertaining movie in its own right. And hey, if you do get bored by it, focus on all the fabulous 1970s clothing and décor, which deserve a separate documentary all of their own.

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