|Films are considered to be epics when they are larger in scope than traditional movies, in addition to being longer in length and vastly more expensive to produce.
This combination can sometimes make for a bigger failure at the box office and in critic’s reviews. However, many times a great director and great story produce some excellent films that captivate audiences for decades. Below are my favorites.
"Barry Lyndon," Stanley Kubrick (1975)
Aside from being a beautifully made picture following the life of Redmond Barry, an Irish farmer who rises from nothing to become a member of the landed gentry in 18th century England, this is my favorite movie of all time.
Not only is the story of the rise and fall of Redmond (Ryan O’Neal) is wonderfully written, acted and decorated with costumes that won it an Oscar, Kubrick used highly developed cameras that enabled him to shoot in candlelight. The cinematography and the beautiful scenery tie the movie together in an amazing way.
"Gandhi," Richard Attenborough (1982)
This film won eight Oscars including best picture, best director, as well as best actor for Ben Kingsley.
It begins at the end of Mohandas Gandhi’s life, when he was assassinated after he using his non-violent form of protesting to unite India and helped to gain independence from Great Britain.
For the funeral scene in the beginning of the film Attenborough used 300,000 extras, bringing them together on the 33rd anniversary of Gandhi’s death. Using 11 camera crews he shot more than 20,000 feet of film but paired it down to 125 seconds of screen time, showing the lengths directors go when they make this type of film.
"The Right Stuff," Philip Kaufman (1983)
I like this movie for a number of reasons.
It is an amazing study of the incredible efforts of our country to send the first Americans into space.
I think this is probably the quintessential epic film because of the history made that inspired the film and the great lengths Kaufman took to portray space flight in movies for the first time.
Parachute stunt man Joseph Leonard Svec was killed while filming a scene where Chuck Yeager’s experimental crash after his helmet filled with smoke and he fell unconscious.
"Master & Commander," Peter Weir (2003)
This film, based upon the series of books written by Patrick O’Brien, follows the life of Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin as they fight for England above the H.M.S. Surprise during the Napoleonic wars.
It has amazing accuracy of detail to the comfortable lives of the officers aboard as well as the squalor that the rank-and-file men live amongst.
The scenes of rough weather came from footage Weir shot of an actual typhoon on location at sea in addition to footage filmed in the 17 million gallon tank built originally for “Titanic.”
"The Lord of the Rings Trilogy," Peter Jackson (2001-2003)
Since everyone knows the story Frodo Baggins and the one ring to rule Middle Earth and the amazing films Jackson made, I figured this should just be about how big the production was.
With a budget of $281 million, the making of the trilogy took a total of eight years and was shot at more than 150 locations in New Zealand. There were 2,400 people involved in the entire production and when filming was taking place in remote locations such as glaciers and mountains, the crew had to bring survival kits in case helicopters could not reach the sets by the time an accident happened.
After all of the hard work the series grossed $1.2 billion dollars, some of which was granted to the New Zealand government as a concession for the environmental impact of so many people using so much territory for shooting.