The poster art alone is freakin' epic!
Epic Movies are movie
movies. These movies are what make Hollywood Hollywood
. These movies are so big they need italic emphasis
. These movies are what we think of when we think of the stars getting out of limousines to walk down red carpets while being shot by the paparazzi and entering rooms with grand staircases and lit by chandeliers. The grand, gigantic, sweeping, glossy, flamboyant spectacles that define and are the triumphs of the film industry. The scope of these Greatest Stories Ever Filmed and the amount of time and money invested in them means that only one comes along every few years. 5 years in the making! 3-and-a-half hours long! Two intermissions
! $200,000,000 budget! 50,000 cast members! All-Star Cast
! A+ list actors! Oscar Bait
to the core! Coming soon to an IMAX theater near you! Can't even be described by sentences that don't end in an exclamation mark!
These are the War and Peaces
and Moby Dicks
of cinema. If they were books, they'd be Doorstoppers
(especially if they're adapted from books that are
In short, the direct inversion of the B-Movie
Often, these movies are somewhat hammy and contrived
. But that's precisely why they're so successful and why one enjoys watching them
. They evoke the feeling of reading one of the aforementioned great novels of our time. They are representations of quintessential human fantasies and fables. Such movies are usually darlings of critics and audiences alike. However, if things get too hammy
, the movie crosses over the line from charming to silly, and critical reception of them can be lukewarm at best and scathing at worst (such was to be the fate of the ambitious but ineptly executed Cleopatra
- and even modern films like Waterworld
An Epic Movie should have a) dramatic ambitions of some sort and b) epic scope. If a movie is artistically ambitious, but focuses on a small number of characters
, it probably isn't an Epic Movie. Exceptions are rare: Das Boot
and 2001: A Space Odyssey
are possible examples of films with a claustrophobic setting that are epic in scope.
Genres especially prone to epic treatment include Sword And Sandal
, Historical Fiction
, High Fantasy
, Space Opera
. Failed attempts are often a rich source of Narm
and So Bad, It's Good
. See also Doing It for the Art
, Loads and Loads of Characters
, Costume Porn
, Scenery Porn
Not to be confused with a Summer Blockbuster
. While superficially similar, that is a separate and distinct offshoot often playing in the same genres. Though it might have a similarly huge budget and scale, it usually isn't as plot-heavy or artistically ambitious. A good way to think of this
type of film would be "Summer Blockbuster meets Oscar Bait
Not all Oscar Bait
is this: A period drama may count, if it involves a war
at some point
, but probably not a dark drama about the mind of a killer or three generations of people living in a house. Generally speaking, a Disaster Movie
or Giant Monster
film is a type of Summer Blockbuster
that is not
described as "An Epic"
. It may be "epic" in the Totally Radical
sense, or an "event movie" due to visuals alone — terms which generally describe any Summer Blockbuster
, but that is different. These are event films by definition, due to subject matter that merely demands such treatment. Epicosity
must ensue, so the list is necessarily limited.
Epic movies tend to be character oriented as opposed to simply plot oriented. This does not neccesarily mean that these movies are Talking Heads
sleep inducers. Rather, it means that these epics follow a central main character often amidst a backdrop of a larger event that you often get glimpses of. Indeed, epic films often have very impressive action scenes as that tends to be the reason that these films are big budget in the first place. Additionally, unlike smaller scope films, the central main character in not neccesarily the only viewpoint character. Therefore, viewers often follow the development of multiple characters. These are stories with a beginning, middle, and end and the story ends when the charater's role ends, not when the big background event ends, even if we know that there's more to that event than what was shown in the film (such as an ongoing Great War). Therefore, unlike the Summer Blockbuster
, true epics tend to be stand alone sagas that do not credibly lend themselves to sequels, prequels, or the beginning of franchises. Indeed, many attempts to further capitalize on the original story with follow up installments, frequently meet with critical panning.
These tend to come in waves, egged on by some new technology made for use in the home that makes the studios feel the go-see-a-movie-in-a-theater business model is threatened. Radio in the '30s, TV in the '50s and home video in the late '70s/early'80s all sparked waves of Epic Movies, and now it's digital streaming's turn.
movies, the Epic Movie
is the rule and not the exception. Three hours is about average length for a Hindi-language movie, and they draw significant inspiration from American shows of this genre, the many religious traditions of India, and the great narrative epics such as the Ramayana.
Not the same thing as a Big Damn Movie
, which is an adaptation
that ups the stakes
for the characters from an existing show. Also not to be confused with the Seltzer and Friedberg
movie of the same name.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Alamo (both the 1960 John Wayne directed version and the 2003 version with Billy Bob Thorton as Davy Crockett.
- Alexander Nevsky
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- Apocalypse Now
- Arcadia Of My Youth
- Around the World in 80 Days
- Asura's Wrath: a rare attempted Video Game example of this.
- The Battleship Potemkin
- Ben Hur
- The Big Trail The 1930 epic western that was supposed to turn John Wayne into a star but it flopped and instead stalled his career until Stagecoach nine years later.
- The Big Country
- The Birth of a Nation, Trope Maker / Ur Example
- A Bridge Too Far
- The Bridge on the River Kwai.
- The Charge Of The Light Brigade1968
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Cloud Atlas
- Dances with Wolves
- El Cid
- Citizen Kane
- Cold Mountain
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- Das Boot
- Duel In The Sun
- Doctor Zhivago
- Empire of the Sun
- Enemy at the Gates
- The English Patient
- Enter the Dragon
- Forrest Gump
- Gangs of New York
- The Godfather I & II
- Gone with the Wind
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- The Great Escape
- The Greatest Story Ever Told
- Greed, a 1925 silent film directed by Erich von Stroheim, is an early example, with an early cut that ran nine and a half hours, but was eventually re-edited to 140 minutes and later "restored" to a four-hour running time. In any case, it's the cinematic equivalent of a Doorstopper.
- Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan
- The Guns of Navarone
- The Hallelujah Trail
- Hamlet, the Kenneth Branagh version. (Most other filmed versions take their cue from Laurence Olivier and are far too claustrophobic to qualify.)
- Heaven's Gate: an infamous example of an Epic Movie that did poorly at the box office.
- Helen of Troy
- Hell's Angels
- The Human Condition: nearly 10 hours long.
- How the West Was Won
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and 1941 are rare comedy examples.
- Ivan the Terrible
- Jerry Maguire is surprisingly long for a romantic comedy.
- Kill Bill
- Kingdom of Heaven
- King of Kings
- The Last of the Mohicans
- The Last Samurai
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Legend Of Suriyothai, Queen of Thailand produced, intended 8-hour length, Coppola re-edit, and battle elephants.
- Les Misérables
- The Lion King (Arguably the most popular animated version.)
- The Lone Ranger
- The Longest Day
- The Lord of the Rings, taken as one film, is nine and a half hours long. The extended editions are more than eleven.
- Love Exposure. Four hours cut down from six hours.
- Mary Poppins
- The Matrix trilogy taken as a whole.
- Mother India
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
- Napoleon, directed by Abel Gance. Originally intended to be part of a series, but it was so big budget that the studio actually ran out of money after producing the first film.
- Odin Photon Sailer Starlight: Preferrably the uncut full-length version. Although many fan reviewers consider this a failed attempt due to its plodding pace, interchangeable characters, the fact that the story ends abruptly with no resolution (this was actually meant to be a TV series and it shows), and it's blatant ripoff of this epic
- Once Upon a Time in America
- Once Upon a Time in the West
- The Passion of the Christ
- The Patriot
- Playtime, Another comedy example. Just look at the sets!
- Princess Mononoke is one of Anime's biggest examples.
- The Prince of Egypt is probably Western Animation's biggest attempt to emulate this genre.
- Port Arthur'
- Queen Millennia
- Quo Vadis
- Red Cliff - One of the most famous parts of one of the most famous Chinese epics, originally in two parts and released in an edited version in English-speaking countries.
- The Right Stuff
- The Robe
- Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise
- Saving Private Ryan
- Scarface (1983)
- Schindlers List
- Seven Samurai
- Space Battleship Yamato (all five animated movies incuding the live action version)
- Star Trek The Motion Picture: moreso than the any other Star Trek films which all assumed that the audience already knew these chararacters and their world well and were aware that these were continuing adventures. This film did have a pre-credits overture, which is common in many old-school epic movies. It was also directed by Robert Wise who knows a thing or two about epic films.
- Every Star Wars movie, although Revenge of the Sith and The Empire Strikes Back are probably the best examples.
- The Sound of Music
- The Ten Commandments
- The Thin Red Line
- The Tree of Life
- The Towering Inferno
- TRON, which was basically Ben Hur In A Computer. TRON: Legacy debatably fits the trope as well.
- The Unknown Soldier
- The Vikings
- The Warlords
- War Horse
- West Side Story
- War and Peace (both the American and the Soviet version)
- The Wizard of Oz
Parodies and fictional examples:
- Astérix and Cleopatra is heralded on its cover as "The Greatest Story Ever Drawn — 14 litres of Indian ink, 30 brushes, 62 pencils, 1 hard pencil, 27 erasers, 1984 sheets of paper, 16 typewriter ribbons, 2 typewriters, 366 pints of beer went into its creation."
- The book's live-action adaptation ended up being a textbook Epic Movie, with a budget that showed in every corner of the screen and famous actors all over the place...
- History of the World Part I by Mel Brooks.
- Monty Pythons Life Of Brian's overblown title sequence is a parody of this.
- Life of Brian and Holy Grail are both parodies of this themselves.
- Blown Away in Terry Pratchett's Moving Pictures.
- The Radioactive Man movie adaptation in The Simpsons is intended as this.
- The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra parodied this in their trailer for the film.
- The Film within the film in Tropic Thunder parodies this, as well as being an example itself (an $80 million budget for a comedy is quite high)
- Parodied in the tagline of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: "An epic of epic epicness".
- In the Cerberus Daily News, mention is made of one of these. What, exactly, happens in it is not said, but production required hiring out a Mass Relay.
- For those still wondering, This video helps explain the phenomenon of epic historical war epics.
Comment: From what movie is the scene with the battle elephants?
Uploader: Which ones?
- The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon is a Real Trailer, Fake Movie for a horror one of these.
Narrator: A major motion picture event, twelve years in the making, filmed on five continents, with a running time of over nine hours.
- Lights, Camera, Curses! is set at a film studio where a classic Epic Movie (Pharaoh) from the 1930s is being remade. Whether the remake is also Epic, or whether it tanks, depends on how easily Nancy solves the case.
- The characters of Soviet animated short Film Film Film are trying to make a grandiose Russian history drama in the vein of Ivan the Terrible.