The poster art alone is freakin' epic!
Don Wilson:Epic Movies
Orson, what's the title of this picture you're making? Orson Welles:
Well, I've called my story very simply The March of Destiny,
and it deals with everything that ever happened. From the beginning of creation to the present day.
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! 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 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 Caligula
- 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.
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 downloading's turn.
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 Seltzer And Friedberg
's Epic Movie
, which is this genre In Name Only
- 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
- Around the World in Eighty Days
- Asura's Wrath: a rare attempted Video Game example of this.
- The Avengers unique in that the first five movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were all leading up to it.
- 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.
- Caligula - Possibly the only epic movie, certainly the only one with Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Peter O'Toole and Sir John Gielgud, to contain unsimulated hardcore sex.
- The Charge Of The Light Brigade1968
- The Chronicles Of Narnia
- Cloud Atlas still counts, in spite of commercial failure and critical panning. It's hard to deny the scope of this movie.
- El Cid
- Citizen Kane
- Cold Mountain
- Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
- The Dark Knight Saga, taken as a whole.
- Das Boot
- Duel In The Sun
- Doctor Zhivago
- Empire Of The Sun
- The English Patient
- Enter The Dragon
- Forrest Gump
- Gangs of New York
- The Godfather I & II
- Godzilla (The original Japanese film.)
- Gone With The Wind
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- The Great Escape
- 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 Door Stopper.
- Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan
- 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.)
- The Harry Potter Film Series, especially Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so much they had to split it into two films.
- Heaven's Gate: an infamous example of an Epic Movie that did poorly at the box office.
- Hells Angels
- How The West Was Won
- Independence Day
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and 1941 are rare comedy examples.
- Ivan The Terrible
- Kingdom Of Heaven
- King Kong (Peter Jackson version)
- 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.
- The Lion King (Arguably the most popular animated version.)
- 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.
- The Matrix Trilogy taken as a whole.
- Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World
- 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.
- 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!
- Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End, among Pirates films thanks to Cerebus Syndrome.
- The Princess Bride
- Princess Mononoke is one of Anime's biggest examples.
- The Prince Of Egypt is probably Western Animation's biggest attempt to emulate this genre.
- Prometheus, where Ridley Scott's intention was to make a film with a far grander scope and heavier themes that his original Alien, in the same universe as that film.
- Quo Vadis
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Red Cliff - Chinese historical epic, Divided For Publication in English.
- The Right Stuff
- The Robe
- Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise
- Saving Private Ryan
- Schindler's List
- Seven Samurai
- Star Wars
- The Sound Of Music
- The Greatest Story Ever Told
- 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
- 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."
- History of the World Part I by Mel Brooks.
- Monty Python's Life of Brian's overblown title sequence is a parody of this.
- Blown Away in Terry Pratchett's Moving Pictures.
- Epic Movie, er... by name at least. It's actually just a spin-off of Scary Movie.
- 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.