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Feature: The Top 20 Greatest Epics of All Time

Epic people

Twenty of the most important epic movies ever made are explored in our feature revealing the secrets, history and Oscar glory of some of the best films ever made.

The list of Top Twenty Epics in the latest Film Review Special throws up a few surprises.

Ben-Hur charged Lawrence of Arabia out of the way, and lorded it over the Lord of the Rings series.

Sword and sandals sagas proved the most popular overall, with Spartacus, Gladiator, and Cleopatra finishing higher than the Mafia classic The Godfather, historical works such as The Last Emperor and even the biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told.

• The total running time of all the films on the list is: 3904 minutes. That’s 65 hours, or almost 2¾ days (without toilet breaks).

• The longest film on the list is The Greatest Story Ever Told which had a four hour 20 minute running time when first released.

• The making of Apocalypse Now was an epic in its own right, taking five years in total.

• The production of Spartacus was also a long affair. When the (lately departed) Peter Ustinov was asked what he did for a living by his son, he replied “Spartacus”.

Spartacus’s controversial bathhouse section was restored in 1991. Crassus (Olivier) asked his slave Antoninus (Curtis) whether he preferred ‘snails or oysters’ – a clumsy sexual metaphor that had scandalized the American censor.

• Olivier had passed away by this time, so his lines were delivered by means of Anthony Hopkins’ excellent impersonation.

• Epic films are dangerous. Russell Crowe had to have his cheek stitched up after the first battle in Gladiator, while Brad Pitt injured his Achilles heel while playing Achilles in the upcoming Troy.

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Film Review Special #51

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Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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Film Review Special #51, see below for ordering options
Film Review Special #51
Epics Special 2004
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