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File:Ben Hur.jpg

Don Wilson: Orson, what's the title of this picture you're making?

Orson Welles: Well, I've called my story very simply The March of Destiny, and it deals with everything that ever happened. From the beginning of creation to the present day.
The Jack Benny Program, March 21, 1943

Epic Movies are movie movies. These movies are what make Hollywood Hollywood. These movies are so big they need italic emphasis. These movies are what we think of when we think of the stars getting out of limousines to walk down red carpets while being shot by the paparazzi and entering rooms with grand staircases and lit by chandeliers. The grand, gigantic, sweeping, glossy, flamboyant spectacles that define and are the triumphs of the film industry. The scope of these Greatest Stories Ever Filmed and the amount of time and money invested in them means that only one comes along every few years. 5 years in the making! 3-and-a-half hours long! Two intermissions! $200,000,000 budget! 50,000 cast members! All-Star Cast! A+ list actors! Oscar Bait to the core! Coming soon to an IMAX theater near you! These are the War and Peaces and Moby Dicks of cinema. If they were books, they'd be Doorstoppers (especially if they're adapted from books that are Doorstoppers.)

In short, the direct inversion of the B-Movie.

Often, these movies are somewhat hammy and contrived. But that's precisely why they're so successful and why one enjoys watching them. They evoke the feeling of reading one of aforementioned great novels of our time. They are representations of quintessential human fantasies and fables. Such movies are usually darlings of critics and audiences alike. However, if things get too hammy, the movie crosses over the line from charming to silly, and critical reception of them can be lukewarm at best and scathing at worst (such was to be the fate of the ambitious but ineptly executed Caligula and Cleopatra - and even modern films like Waterworld).

An Epic Movie should have a) dramatic ambitions of some sort and b) epic scope. If a movie is artistically ambitious, but focuses on a small number of characters, it probably isn't an Epic Movie. Exceptions are rare: Das Boot and 2001: A Space Odyssey are possible examples of films with a claustrophobic setting that are epic in scope.

Genres especially prone to epic treatment include Sword and Sandal, Historical Fiction, High Fantasy, Space Opera. Failed attempts are often a rich source of Narm and So Bad It's Good. See also Doing It for the Art, Loads and Loads of Characters, Costume Porn, Scenery Porn.

Not to be confused with a Summer Blockbuster. While superficially similar, that is a separate and distinct offshoot often playing in the same genres. Though it might have a similarly huge budget and scale, it usually isn't as plot-heavy or artistically ambitious. A good way to think of it would be "Summer Blockbuster meets Oscar Bait."

Not all Oscar Bait is this: A period drama may count, if it involves a war at some point, but probably not a dark drama about the mind of a killer or three generations of people living in a house. Generally speaking, a Disaster Movie or Giant Monster film is a type of Summer Blockbuster that is not described as "An Epic". It may be "epic" in the Totally Radical sense, or an "event movie" due to visuals alone -- terms which generally describe any Summer Blockbuster, but that is different. These are event films by definition, due to subject matter that merely demands such treatment. Epicosity must ensue, so the list is necessarily limited.

These tend to come in waves, egged on by some new technology that makes the studios feel the go-see-a-movie-in-a-theater business model is threatened. Radio in the '30s, TV in the '50s and home video in the late '70s/early'80s all sparked waves of Epic Movies, and now it's digital downloading's turn.

Not the same thing as a Big Damn Movie, which is an adaptation that ups the stakes for the characters from an existing show.

Also not to be confused with Seltzer and Friedberg's Epic Movie, which is this genre In Name Only.

Examples of Epic Movie include:


Parodies and fictional examples:

 Comment: From what movie is the scene with the battle elephants?

Uploader: Which ones?

 Narrator: A major motion picture event, twelve years in the making, filmed on five continents, with a running time of over nine hours.

  • Lights, Camera, Curses! is set at a film studio where a classic Epic Movie (Pharaoh) from the 1930s is being remade. Whether the remake is also Epic, or whether it tanks, depends on how easily Nancy solves the case.
  • The characters of Soviet animated short Film, Film, Film are trying to make a grandiose Russian history drama in the vein of Ivan the Terrible.
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