Most of the time, one movie is enough time to tell a whole story. Sure, some movies get sequels, and if a sequel does well, there’s every chance the whole thing could morph into a trilogy. But you’d expect if something was at one point intended to be a standalone story, then it will have been filmed as one movie, released as one movie, and (at least initially) enjoyed by audiences as one movie.
Sometimes, however, one movie is not enough time for the story at hand. There are a handful of beloved movies that were shot in one go but released in multiple parts because of the enormity of the story being told. The following movies are some of the best-known of these multi-part epics and are ranked in ascending order from shortest total runtime to longest.
1 ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012) — 317 minutes
Undoubtedly one of the best crime films of the 2010s, Gangs of Wasseypur is a two-part epic that spans just over five hours. It makes use of its runtime by being incredibly ambitious with the array of genres it tackles and by having a narrative of immense scope, detailing the conflict between two powerful crime families in India across three generations and almost 70 years.
If anything, the film was probably split in two because most people aren’t going to be able to watch a movie that’s five hours long, even with an intermission. It works well because the film as a whole is relentlessly paced and probably best split into two viewings anyway, making a Part 1 and a Part 2 a welcome division here.
2 ‘Nymphomaniac’ (2013) — 325 minutes
Lars von Trier is no stranger to making challenging movies, and Nymphomaniac might well be his most challenging. It follows a woman named Jo (played by both Stacy Martin and Charlotte Gainsbourg), who’s a sex addict, who tells her story to a seemingly hospitable bachelor, with much of the film playing out as a series of flashbacks.
Because of how long Nymphomaniac ended up being, it was divided into two volumes, with both being released in 2013. There are also differences in runtime between the edited and uncut versions, with the total runtime of both volumes for the full uncut version totaling five hours and 25 minutes.
3 ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ (2018) and ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019) — 330 minutes
The wait between Infinity War and Endgame might’ve felt like an eternity for fans of the Avengers series, but the two films were actually shot as one movie. It makes sense, given that the Russo Brothers were the directorial duo behind both, and the two films together Russo Brothers were the directorial duo behind both, and the two films together do ultimately tell one huge story.
Avengers: Infinity War serves as a non-stop action movie with a shocking ending, and Avengers: Endgame serves as a very long but ultimately satisfying conclusion to the first three phases of the MCU as a whole. They were filmed as one project and can now be enjoyed as one film… albeit a very long one that takes five-and-a-half hours to finish.
4 ‘The Emigrants’ (1971) and ‘The New Land’ (1972) — 393 minutes
Serving as a truly epic Western (of sorts), The Emigrants (1971) and The New Land (1972) are technically two movies but were filmed as one. The first tells the story of a Swedish family who decides to immigrate to North America during the 19th century, while the second shows their attempts to adjust to life there.
Taken together, it’s an immensely challenging duology, and given the first film runs for 190 minutes and the second is just over 200 minutes, it’s best not to watch them both in one go. There’s a level of realism to these movies that makes them harrowing and even brutal, but they are beautifully shot and impeccably acted, standing as underrated classics in the realm of world cinema.
5 ‘War and Peace’ (1966-1967) — 415 minutes
Everyone knows about the Space Race, where the US and the Soviet Union engaged in a battle of sorts to see who could do the coolest stuff in space before the other. Few people know that this level of competition extended into the film industry, however, and that the USSR’s attempts to beat Hollywood at their own game led to one of the best epic movies of all time getting made.
That film is the gargantuan 1960s adaptation of War and Peace, intended to be one complete movie but released in four parts across 1966 and 1967. Few Soviet films from this era come close to the spectacle on offer here, with amazing production design, thousands of extras in some scenes, and some of the biggest battle sequences ever staged in film history. It’s a remarkable epic that captures much of its mammoth source material and is well worth devoting almost seven hours to.
6 ‘Les Vampires’ (1915-1916) — 421 minutes
It’s quite impressive how well Les Vampires still holds up, considering it’s well over 100 years old at this point. Maybe you have to be a fan of silent films to get something out of it, but at the same time, it’s faster-paced and more exciting than most people would imagine a silent film to be.
It stands as one complete story but was released in 10 different parts between 1915 and 1916, with the shortest segment being 15 minutes and the longest being 60. It tells the story of a journalist uncovering a shadowy criminal organization known as The Vampires. It doesn’t actually contain anything supernatural, instead being a fun and briskly-paced action/crime/mystery series that still proves entertaining to this day.
7 ‘Dekalog’ (1989) — 572 minutes
A heavy but essential series of 10 short films that add up to one core experience, Dekalog is perhaps the greatest achievement of Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s filmmaking career. Each short film covers one of the Ten Commandments, with every one of these 10 segments clocking in at approximately an hour each.
As a result, the total series ends up being just under six hours long. It’s long enough that, by far, the best way to watch it is in segments, but finishing it does reveal that the series as a whole is even more than the sum of its parts. It ends up being fantastic filmmaking and storytelling, and regardless of whether someone wants to consider it a miniseries or a long film, it’s essential either way.
8 ‘The Human Condition’ (1959-1961) — 574 minutes
Few movies offer such an intense and psychologically devastating depiction of war as those in The Human Condition trilogy. These three films — released between 1959 and 1961 — are all over three hours long each, and in total, the story as a whole will take viewers just over nine-and-a-half hours to watch.
It’s time well spent, though, because it’s widely regarded as one of the best films in the history of Japanese cinema. From Masaki Kobayashi‘s flawless direction to Tatsuya Nakadai‘s remarkably committed lead performance, it’s a film that grabs viewers from the start and never lets go, ending up as one of the most exhausting — but also one of the best — film trilogies of all time.
9 ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Extended Version (2001-2003) — 686 minutes
One reason The Lord of the Rings trilogy flows together so well as one cohesive story is because it was filmed as if it were one huge film. There’s a level of consistency throughout as a result, and even if they were released in 2001, 2002, and 2003 respectively, the three films collectively benefit from being watched all in one go (if viewers are feeling particularly dedicated).
The theatrical editions are all long, sure, but if the extended editions are selected instead, The Lord of the Rings ends up being one of the longest film trilogies of all time. It takes a bit over 11 hours to watch all of them, but as many fans will attest, it’s very rewarding to do so.
10 ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ (1980) — 931 minutes
One of the longest multi-part films of all time is Berlin Alexanderplatz, a miniseries that has also had theatrical screenings on occasion. This is despite its gargantuan runtime of over 15 hours, which led to even the theatrical showings needing to be divided into multiple parts, sometimes spread out over numerous weeks.
Berlin Alexanderplatz ended up being one of the most famous works by filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder and follows an ex-convict who tries to live a clean life but finds himself getting involved once more with the criminal underworld. It’s one of the most acclaimed epic miniseries of all time, with a remarkable rating of 4.3 on Letterboxd.
KEEP READING: Very Long Movies That Didn’t Earn Their Epic Runtimes, Ranked by Length