7. Watchmen Director’s Cut (186 min.)
Director Zack Snyder’s controversial adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel was cut by almost an hour before its theatrical release. The director’s cut of the film provides more backstory, more character development, and more to discuss afterward. At just over three hours, this cut of Watchmen isn’t epically long, per se, but its complex and ambiguous ending should provide hours of debate to pass the time after the film has concluded.
6. Apocalypse Now Redux (202 min.)
Francis Ford Coppola’s harrowing Vietnam epic is expanded in almost every way in this newer cut widely available (in some areas, more available than the original iteration) on DVD. My personal favorite addition to Redux is a scene that adds some resolution to the subplot involving Robert Duvall’s character’s surfboard. It won’t provoke much levity, but this DVD will keep you absorbed for a good two-and-a-third.
5. Lawrence of Arabia (227 min.)
When it was released in 1962, Lawrence of Arabia was hailed as a classic. Since then, its reputation has only grown. Even if you’re watching on a dinky in-car plasma screen, you will be absorbed for all 227 minutes of this sweeping epic. While the story of T.E. Lawrence is timeless, it may seem particularly relevant when approaching the issues the U.S. now faces with guerilla fighters in the Middle East, as the British once did.
4. Che (268 min.)
Steven Soderbergh’s two-part biopic of Cuban revolutionary and T-shirt icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara swept Cannes in 2008 and features Benicio del Toro’s most intense performance to date. The cinema verite sensibility of the film has made it a favorite of the art house crowd, but there’s plenty here for a mainstream viewer to appreciate. Che is based primarily on the revolutionary’s own memoirs, and spans the titular freedom fighter’s two-year war against dictator Fulgencio Batista.
3. The Stand (345 min.)
Stephen King reportedly disliked Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his book The Shining, but fully vetted this miniseries adaptation of his equally landmark novel The Stand, which closely follows the plot of its source, a post-apocalyptic epic set in a United States that has disintegrated societally due to a supervirus. Survivors are tormented by bizarre visions that, in some cases, drive them toward servitude of dark forces. Watch it riding in a car at night along an isolated mountain road, if possible.
2. The Godfather Saga (434 min.)
Probably the second-most-iconic trilogy after Star Wars, the Godfather trilogy spans three generations, and does the epic scope justice (more or less, anyway– criticisms of Part III as inadequate are mostly justified). This rare version of the trilogy presents events in purely chronological order, weaving flashbacks back into straight progression with the addition of previously unseen footage. The violent and sexual content of the films has also been toned down a bit in this version, making it marginally more viewable during family trips.
1. The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition (683 min.)
An epic’s epic, the extended editions of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films add meat to the characters, but don’t feel any heavier. In many cases, the pace of the films actually seems swifter due to the reediting. All three films are improved by their “extending,” and are worth seeing for anyone who loves Lord of the Rings for more than its action. Probably the most significant re-addition to the films is the destruction of Saruman previously absent from The Return of the King. Watching the films with intermissions for discussion and breath-catching can easily consume two days on the road. Highly recommended viewing.