Making a film is no cakewalk. And when you’re really passionate about your film and what it to be your masterpiece, it only gets tougher. While some films such as ‘Paranormal Activity’ take only a few weeks to film, the production times can go as high as a decade or even more. And it is, therefore, no surprise when the release dates of films keep getting delayed for years and years. We are listing films that took a fairly long production time. Apart from the production time, the relevance and popularity of the films were also considered. Here is a list of movies that took the longest to make before hitting the silver screen. Also, we have ignored cases like the LOTR trilogy because they were a case of parallel projects and not a single film.
15. Movie 43 (2013)
This 2013 comedy took about 4 years to produce. Apart from convincing production houses (it’s still a mystery as to how they got the producers onboard), the long list of stars in the film was a key issue. Getting over a dozen A-listers to do an outrageous film (also deemed as the worst of all time by many) is the only major feat under its belt. The film had multiple directors shooting their individual parts and the busy schedules of the actors made the production long and delayed.
14. The Fall (2006)
Tarsem Singh’s 2006 film, ‘The Fall’ was clearly a passion project that took over 4 years to complete. The visually appealing film has also been ranked among the most beautiful films of all time. The film was shot in exotic locations over 20 countries and was produced mainly by the director. Financial crunches led to delayed shoots that were already difficult enough. Just imagine shooting a chase sequence at the Taj Mahal. The film was a commercial failure but was recognized for its aesthetics later.
13. Hell’s Angels (1930)
Howard Hughes’ 1930 epic, ‘Hell’s Angels’ was not your typical independent film mainly because it cost more than most commercial films of its time. But Hughes was a visionary who knew no bounds when it came to perfecting his project and bringing his vision to the big screen. Considered as a historically important film because of the many innovations it brought to the production process, this film took over 3 years to shoot. Midway, the film was re-shot to incorporate the newly conceived sound technology in the film leading to further delays. Hughes also ran into a financial turmoil due to the tiresome production process. Saying that he put his everything into the making of this film would still be an understatement.
12. Samsara (2011)
‘Samsara’ is a non-narrative documentary by directors, Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson. The film, like ‘The Fall’, has been shot in about 25 different countries and the shooting took around 5 years to finish. The film was visually stunning and the efforts put in guaranteed it to be a critically acclaimed film. Do check out this visual masterpiece for the mere beauty of the shots.
11. Everyday (2012)
This British film revolves around a convicted drug smuggler and his relationship with his family. In order to add a realistic appeal to the narrative, the shoot was stretched across 5 years by filming small segments at a time. The film opened to mixed reviews but the effort put in and given the small budget of the film, it is commendable.
10. Eraserhead (1977)
Considered to be one of David Lynch‘s finest films and a game changer in the horror genre, ‘Eraserhead’ was no stranger to production hell. Lynch started the film as a student project and decided to pursue the project further and adapt it for the big screen. Insufficient funding was a major issue for this visual masterpiece. Remember, Lynch was not a big shot director yet and the project was mainly funded by him and his friends. Also, Lynch’s perfectionist mannerisms led to extended shoots and delays in schedule and the film took 5 years of Lynch’s utterly dedicated time to make.
9. Apocalypse Now (1979)
A film deserves a place on this list when it has an entire documentary describing its challenging and tedious production process. After the success of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Godfather: Part II’, Francis Ford Coppola decided to make a film on the Vietnam War. ‘Apocalypse Now’ was again a passion project that faced too many challenges and the fact that it made it to the big screen is an accomplishment in itself. The lead, Martin Sheen had an unexpected heart attack at a very young age during the filming and his subsequent depression delayed the shoots. Also, Marlon Brando‘s unprofessional attitude was another problem. He became overweight and used to come unprepared for his shots. If these weren’t enough, the budget of the film had to be revised extensively due to expensive sets getting damaged due to unfavorable weather conditions. Nevertheless, the film was completed after 4 years and Coppola would finally have had a breath of relief in 1979 after its release and critical and commercial success. As they say, “All’s well that ends well.”
8. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Stanley Kubrick‘s last film took over 4 years to make. He was interested in making the erotic film since the 60s. Constant script changes and extended shoots led to a long production and the film has also been recognized for the longest continuous shoot. 15 months. Working with Kubrick is a rather challenging job. His actors would testify the fact. The cast and crew were exhausted by the time the film was wrapped up and Kubrick ensured that every frame looked exactly as he wanted it to. If it even meant stretching the shooting schedules by months. The film was a critical and commercial success upon its 1999 release.
7. Perspective (2020)
Ok, this one is an interesting entry. This film will come out in 2020 and is a love triangle based story spread across 9 chapters. Each Chapter will be filmed in consecutive years and the first one was shot in 2012. The film is expected to be 2 hours long and each chapter is individually screened every year upon completion as well. The film is expected to be released in 2020 after 9 years of filming. A similar project was Lars von Trier‘s ‘Dimension’. It was supposed to be shot from 1991 to 2024 (3 minutes of footage each year). The director, however, lost interest in 1997 and abandoned the project and the incomplete film was released in 2010. Because it wasn’t completed, we haven’t included the film in our list. It takes immense determination to hang on to such a project and we hope they do pull it off.
6. Avatar (2009)
James Cameron‘s sci-fi epic, ‘Avatar’ dazzled everyone when it was released and gave way to an entire film franchise that we are yet to witness. However, it was no easy task making a film like that. Apart from the time it took to develop the script, the film itself took 10 years to produce because of the very nature of the film. Cameron had to very patiently wait until the right technology became available and since visual effects were the very core of the film, it was a wise decision as well. We are fortunate that he did not rush through the production and settle for less. One can only imagine how amazing the sequels would be and you won’t find anyone complaining about the long wait.
5. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
One of India’s best contributions to the cinematic world, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ was an extremely challenging project that took over 10 years to complete. To start with, almost the entire casting had to be revised before the shooting started and after much thought, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala were cast in the leading roles. Finally, principal photography began in 1950. The film is most noted for its extravagant sets. These sets took more than a month to be set up and were just as costly. A single set piece was almost as costly as an entire feature length film back then. Thus, financial burdens added to the challenges. The film was long as well. After a whole lot of editing and removing certain songs, the film ran for 197 minutes.
The shooting was almost complete when color technology hit the Indian cinema and director, Asif wanted to include it in his magnum opus as well. He shot some portions in Technicolor and when the distributors got just too impatient, he was finally forced to release the film in partial color in 1960.
4. Boyhood (2014)
Richard Linklater‘s Oscar-nominated ‘Boyhood’ was probably his most challenging film. He made a bold decision to shoot the film over 12 years on a continuous basis to capture the character transformations rightly. And boy, did it feel amazing. The film feels just so natural that one gets attached to each individual character. This is indeed an accomplishment because it is really hard to be committed to something for so long. I’m not even mentioning the risk associated with such a production model. But the fruit was sweeter than Linklater must have imagined and the movie became one of the most loved movies of the year. Also, Linklater’s method correctly captured the feel of each era presented in the story as he used whatever was popular at that particular time of shooting. We hope we see more such work in the coming years.
3. Pakeezah (1972)
Another Bollywood film, ‘Pakeezah’ deserves a place on this list because it took an unbelievable 16 years to produce! To start with, this was director Kamal Amrohi’s tribute to his then-wife and actress, Meena Kumari. He wanted her to be remembered for this film and so he spent a considerable amount of time developing the film. When the filming began in 1956, Technicolor started getting more and more famous and Amrohi wanted a colored film rather than a black-and-white one. Later, Cinemascope came into existence and Amrohi spent a huge sum and borrowed a lens from MGM. However, the project could not start due to some technical difficulties.
Later, after half the project was finished, in 1964, Amrohi and Meena Kumari were separated and the project came to a halt for 5 years, until fellow actors, Nargis and Sunil Dutt convinced the two to get back to work for the project. Kumari was ill at the time and somehow managed to shoot, at a slow pace, though. The project finally saw the light of the day in 1972.
2. Tiefland (1954)
Director Leni Riefenstahl started writing a script portraying the Nazi culture in 1934. However, she was later called to design a war propaganda for the Nazis. Hitler later granted her permission to work on the project in 1940 and by, 1944, the film had been shot amid delays caused by the war. However, soon after, the film was confiscated by the French and returned years later for a final release in 1954. The film also holds the record for being the live-action film with the longest production time ever.
Read More: Longest Movies in the World
1. The Thief and the Cobbler (1993)
This animated film took a mind-wobbling 28 years to make! Director, Richard Williams, started the project in 1964. But due to insufficient funding, he filmed only some scenes at a time leading to a slow production. However, after he worked on the successful ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, he secured enough funding and distribution from Warner Bros. However, the film was eventually handed over to someone else and released finally in 1993. The released film is pretty average, however, the Recobbled version is ranked highly among animated films. This film surpassed ‘Tiefland’ to become the film with the longest production time in history (live-action as well as animated).