Long movies aren’t for everyone, but when they’re good, they can truly suck viewers in. An epic-length film that justifies running for three hours or more is something always worth celebrating, regardless of the genre. Most epics tend to be historical dramas or large-scale war movies based on true events, but just as well-suited to the epic movie format is the crime genre.
This is perhaps best demonstrated by The Godfather trilogy, seeing as its first film’s runtime is just shy of three hours, its second film exceeds three hours, and even The Godfather Part III clocks in between 158 and 170 minutes, depending on which cut of the film is watched. However, there are plenty of great (and long) crime epics beyond The Godfather, as demonstrated by the films below, which are ranked according to their overall length.
10 ‘Rocco and His Brothers’ (1960)
178 minutes long
Coming out a decade before The Godfather – and likely having an influence on it – Rocco and His Brothers is a classic Italian crime drama from the 1960s. It follows a family rocked by a series of conflicts, including two brothers who fall for the same woman, with violent consequences developing from their eventual rivalry.
It was a landmark film that showed how effectively crime elements could be blended with a story that mostly focused on family drama. It uses its three-hour length to cover a great deal of ground, making for an emotional and memorable crime/drama epic that fans of classic world cinema owe it to themselves to watch.
9 ‘Casino’ (1995)
179 minutes long
Martin Scorsese’sGoodfellas was a classic crime movie from 1990, and ended up doing more than some three-hour-long movies despite having a runtime of approximately 2.5 hours. 1995’s Casino – somewhat of a spiritual sequel – ended up having a similarly frantic pace to Goodfellas, except this time around had a runtime that was just one minute shy of three hours.
Its depiction of Las Vegas and its relationship with the mob during the 1970s makes for a brutal, gritty, and downbeat crime epic. The level of violence here can be particularly hard to watch, with the runtime eventually making the film exhausting (it’s likely by design, though, given it effectively shows how cutthroat, twisted, and stressful the criminal world can be).
8 ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)
180 minutes long
18 years on from Casino, Scorsese returned to the world of three-hour crime movies with 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It was a movie that was just as frenetic and dizzying, though had more of a comedic spin to it than the particularly vicious Casino, and dealt with a different type of crime altogether.
The Wolf of Wall Street set its sights on the criminal side of the business world, depicting the various fraudulent schemes Jordan Belfort used to accumulate massive wealth while working on Wall Street. It’s less violent, and sometimes funny, but Scorsese ultimately shows how such crimes are incredibly destructive in their own ways, making The Wolf of Wall Street a darkly comedic and cynical look at so-called “white collar” crime, and the kinds of people who engage in it.
7 ‘The Irishman’ (2019)
209 minutes long
Scorsese’s third epic-length crime film is also his longest non-documentary feature to date. That movie is 2019’s The Irishman, which tells the story of an aging ex-hitman named Frank Sheeran, who recounts his life story to the audience with a particular focus on his involvement with the infamous disappearance of union leader Jimmy Hoffa.
Despite it running for three-and-a-half hours and being a little less flashy than Scorsese’s other crime films, it’s still paced well and inevitably builds to an incredibly strong final act. Given its director and stars were all in their mid-to-late 70s when the film was made, it also has a great deal to say about getting older and the regret that comes with it, making The Irishman a haunting and sad movie with some occasional humor to stop it from being 100% miserable.
6 ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984)
229 minutes long
Sergio Leone’s final movie was a gangster epic that had a critically-disliked theatrical cut and a widely-beloved director’s cut that clocks in at a little under four hours. That movie is Once Upon a Time in America, and it recounts a story about young boys who form a gang in their youth, then become successful bootleggers as young adults, only for unexpected complications to drive them apart as they get older.
Like The Irishman, it spends time with elderly characters who did unspeakable things when they were younger, and how that impacted their lives in old age. Because of its scale and decades-spanning narrative, it more than earns its impressively long runtime, and even outside the crime genre, it may well be one of the best epic movies of all time full-stop.
5 ‘A Brighter Summer Day’ (1991)
237 minutes long
At first glance, A Brighter Summer Day sounds relatively simple, and also might not immediately feel like a crime movie. It’s certainly a slow burn, as it’s most concerned with telling a detailed and sometimes uncomfortably personal coming-of-age story about a young boy who grows up in Taiwan during the 1960s.
As it develops, it certainly reveals some unexpected complexities, and it gradually morphs from a coming-of-age/romance movie into a haunting crime film. It uses the length to build to some hard-hitting narrative beats and character moments, being an accomplished epic on a personal level, and one that will reward patient viewers.
4 ‘Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler’ (1922)
271 minutes long
A movie that’s over 100 years old and 4.5 hours long might not sound particularly appetizing to modern viewers, but Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler is a good watch for fans of silent cinema. It was directed by Fritz Lang, who’s perhaps best known for 1927’s Metropolis and 1931’s M.
It was the first film Lang made about the titular Dr. Mabuse, the leader of a criminal organization whose exploits are closely followed by a determined police commissioner. Its 1933 sequel, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, might be even better, though its runtime of 122 minutes means it’s not quite an epic the same way the 1922 original is.
3 ‘Les Misérables’ (1934)
281 minutes long
Few adaptations of Les Misérables feel as complete or satisfying as the French-language 1934 version. The story of course covers more genres than just crime, but at its core, Les Misérables does follow one criminal trying to reform and become a better man in France during the 19th century, all the while being pursued by a police inspector.
This version certainly doesn’t have any musical numbers, but the core plot will be familiar to those who are familiar with the musical adaptation. 1934’s Les Misérables is undeniably quite the time commitment, but thankfully breaks itself up into three parts that are all about 90 to 100 minutes long, which makes it easier to digest.
2 ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012)
321 minutes long
Gangs of Wasseypur was released in two parts, but ultimately is one complete movie, and is listed as such on IMDb. Watching the nearly 5.5-hour-long saga about two warring crime families in one go is exhausting in the best way possible, because it’s a relentless experience that’s filled with surprising twists, action setpieces, dark comedy, and scenes of brutal violence.
It’s one of the best crime epics of the 21st century so far, and arguably one of the greatest Indian films in recent memory. The story spans almost 70 years, and countless characters come and go throughout the narrative, keeping things continually fresh, exciting, and unexpected.
1 ‘Carlos’ (2010)
339 minutes long
Carlos admittedly blurs the line between miniseries and feature film, mainly because it was released as both, and with different edits, too. It screened at Cannes the same month it originally aired on TV over three different nights: May 2010.
Regardless of how one watches it, Carlos is undeniably long in its extended format, running for more than 5.5 hours. It follows Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, a Venezuelan revolutionary who founded a terrorist organization that rocked the world during the 1970s and 1980s through assassinations and bombings. It’s a long but comprehensive look at an infamous real-life individual, and stands as a successful and compelling biopic, crime film, and thriller all in one.
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