Movies don’t have to be entertaining. That probably seems like a strange thing to say, but it’s true. While many of the most beloved films of all-time certainly fall under the umbrella of entertaining, a great movie can also be one that aims to inform the viewer of something they need to know, functions as a cinematic work of art on every technical level, or is otherwise notable for a reason so elusive that it takes years for people to figure out its appeal. The only thing that all great movies have in common is that they’re movies.
So, it’s perfectly possible for a boring film to still be considered great. Yet, “boring” is one of those tags that people who love a movie will defend it from like it’s their own. There’s something inexcusably insulting about the boring label. While it’s true that a boring movie can be a bad one, there are other times when boredom is simply a side effect of some ulterior motive that a filmmaker possesses. While few directors set out to make a boring film, the truth remains that there are some movies that are as undeniably snooze-inducing as they are undeniably great.
These are 15 “Great” Movies That Are Incredibly Boring.
Boyhood is one of the most ambitious films ever made. Over the course of almost 12 years, Richard Linklater shot this intimate epic all about a boy’s journey from childhood to adulthood (or at least something approaching adulthood). It’s a technical marvel made with a lot of love.
It’s also kind of a bore. The problem with Boyhood is that it’s realistic to a fault. If you happen to have been a young lower-middle class boy who grew up in certain parts of Texas, you’ll be shocked to see just how well Boyhood captures the most minute aspects of that particular experience. If that doesn’t describe you, then you’ll likely be left to wonder why it is that almost every single scene is seemingly devoid of actual dramatic occurrences.
14. Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown is sometimes thought of as the “other” Quentin Tarantino movie. Actually, Jackie Brown barely feels like a Quentin Tarantino movie at all. It’s largely devoid of gushing pop culture references, the violence is actually quite tame, and not a single Nazi gets a swastika carved into their head. Some people actually love the movie because it’s such a non-Tarantino film. In fact, some believe it’s one of the best movies of the ‘90s.
Even those who like the film will have a hard time arguing in favor of the film’s length, however. Jackie Brown is a one-and-a-half hour movie that takes about two-and-a-half hours to watch. Much of the movie’s first hour is devoted to very slow set-up, and the stylized finale intentionally re-tells a particular story occurrence several times from different points of view. Jackie Brown is a good movie, but it’s one that demands your undivided devotion.
13. The Revenant
2015’s The Revenant is one of the best movies based on a Cormac McCarthy novel that isn’t actually based on a Cormac McCarthy novel. It’s a story that relies heavily on setting and little on dialog. Despite this, it still features some incredible individual performances.
The Revenant is a film that often feels like it’s losing interest in its own story. There’s nothing wrong with a minimalist plot, but The Revenant fires out of the gate as a somewhat high-octane revenge film and eventually becomes an almost supernatural meditative journey about the human condition. That might have actually worked if it wasn’t for the fact that director Alejandro G. Iñárritu occasionally revisits the original story much like the director is a parent assuring travel-weary children that they will eventually get to their destination.
12. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is not just a lesson in why most movies feature one or two-word titles; it’s a lesson in why there are no such things as a guaranteed box office successes. You would think a western film starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck that was promoted via some really great trailers would be well-received by audiences. Instead, the film made about $15 million off of a $30 million budget.
Many of its box-office failures can be traced back to bad word of mouth. Assassination isn’t a typical Hollywood western. While the film is undeniably beautiful – this is some of Roger Deakins’ best work – there is simply no reason for this movie to be almost three hours long. This is a case of a film that seems rather shallow from a narrative standpoint, yet seems to be completely obsessed with itself.
11. Apocalypse Now Redux
Apocalypse Now Redux is the 2001 re-cut of one of the most epic war movies ever made. Francis Ford Coppola labored over this version of the film in order to ensure that it was the definitive version of a movie that is still considered by many to be his masterpiece.
Instead, Redux proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. Some people loved the fact that the movie contains a few, minor additions which really do help fill in some plot gaps the original cut left behind. Others, however, found themselves staring at their watches as this over three-hour film slowly chugs towards its eventual finale. The problem isn’t that Redux is long; the problem is that much of its length can be chalked up to scenes that really don’t add anything to the story. Even people who prefer this version may hesitate to watch it over the original on the basis of runtime alone.
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
On the outset, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy feels like an underrated gem. A highly stylized spy thriller starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, and John Hurt? How could that set-up possibly lead to anything but a great drama?
To be fair, the movie might actually be an underrated gem, but to find out, you’ll have to be one of the few people that can make it through through the movie without having any questions about what exactly is going on. We know that a lot of films get labeled as confusing when they’re really not (Inception), but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a genuinely confounding movie. That’s not an awful thing in and of itself, but the film doesn’t really reward you for your patience with an especially notable payoff.
Spotlight’s story is an undeniably important one. This film follows a group of Boston Globe reporters trying to uncover the truth behind a series of molestation charges within the church that have seemingly been covered up for years. What it really is, though, is a message about how good journalism is more important than ever at a time when good journalism isn’t necessarily profitable.
You could say the same thing about a movie like All The President’s Men. However, while All the President’s Men is spiritually close to a spy thriller, Spotlight goes out of its way to meticulously show every detail of the journalistic investigation process. As admirable as that goal is – the film is clearly trying to show that good reporting isn’t always flashy – there are many times when you’ll find yourself wishing that the movie would abandon its message in favor of providing some traditional cinematic thrills.
8. Barry Lyndon
Barry Lyndon is probably one of the most obscure movies on this list, which is actually quite funny when you consider that it came from one of the best directors of all-time. Still, Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 movie about an Irish man’s attempt to woo a wealthy widow has – much like Jackie Brown – long been relegated to “other movie” status.
To tell you the truth, it’s not hard to see why Lyndon doesn’t receive the love that some of Kubrick’s other movies do. Barry Lyndon is best described as an especially well-produced episode of Masterpiece Theater. Actually, it’s more like a particularly stuffy museum. It’s full of old and beautiful things, but you really need to like staring at old and beautiful things in order to derive any enjoyment from the experience.
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Before we let Mr. Kubrick off the hook, let’s talk about what is arguably his greatest achievement. 2001: A Space Odyssey is maybe the most important sci-fi film ever made. It not only showed audiences that sci-fi films could be more than glorified monster movies, it forever set a new precedent in terms of special effects. It’s a landmark for the ages.
But man, it’s also a boring movie. When you think back on 2001, you tend to remember the musical score, the evil A.I., and that really trippy ending. All told, those aspects make up a minute percentage of this nearly three-hour film. Much of the rest of the movie consists of astronauts going about their daily lives or floating wordlessly in space. While these quiet scenes do help ensure the dramatic moments land – and were visually impressive for their time – this is not a movie that makes repeat viewings easy.
6. Blade Runner
While we’re on the subject of boring sci-fi movies…
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa…slow down. We hear you. Blade Runner is a classic. It’s intelligent, it’s beautiful, and it features some of the most memorable sequences in genre history. In fact, Blade Runner might just be one of the most beloved sci-fi movies of all-time.
All that said, Blade Runner suffers from the same problem that a lot of films on this list suffer from. It’s a movie that values visuals over everything else. Again, movies that are great to look at are always welcome, but between Harrison Ford’s resentful line deliveries – he did not have a good time working on this film – and long stretches of absolutely nothing, you start to realize that Blade Runner is one of those movies that demands you sift through some dirt in order to find the gems.
5. Lost In Translation
Lost in Translation is one of the most unlikely box office hits of all-time. Shot over the course of 27 days, Sofia Coppola’s movie about a washed up actor working in Japan and the young woman he falls in love ended up garnering almost $120 million at the box office off of a $4 million budget. Critics loved the film, but few felt it would find the audience that it did.
Years later, it’s easy to wake up from the film’s dreamlike qualities and start asking yourself what it is about this movie that’s really so compelling. The answer has to do with the subdued performances of Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, as well as Coppola’s creative direction. You have to be willing to fall in love with this little slice of Tokyo that the film portrays if you’re going to be able to get through the movie’s almost nonexistent plot and lack of traditional dramatic moments. Others have criticized the movie for its almost comedic portrayal of the Japanese, which isn’t a completely unfair criticism.
4. There Will Be Blood
Staying on the subject of movies carried by the strength of a performance, we come to There Will Be Blood. Daniel Day-Lewis may just be the world’s greatest living actor, and his portrayal of oil baron Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson’s tragic depiction of the dying days of the wild west may just be the actor’s finest performance.
Remove Day-Lewis’ performance from the equation, however, and you’re left with a movie that is noticeably uneven. Once the film focuses in on the finale of the battle of twisted moralities between Plainview and a Pastor named Eli, it loses much of the manic energy that carries the early sections of the movie. Again, There Will Be Blood is indeed a modern masterpiece, but it’s impossible not to sympathize with anyone who confesses that they found the film to be too slow for its own good.
3. The Witch
There’s a bit of a horror movie revival going on at the moment. Movies like The Babadook, It Follows, and Get Out are showing audiences that horror movies can be more than just a series of funhouse thrills scattered loosely around a vague plot. However, it is 2015’s The Witch that is cited by many as the smartest, most compelling, and most important horror movie of the modern era.
What fans of the film typically leave out is the fact that The Witch is mercilessly slow. We will always applaud horror films that don’t feel the need to scare the audience every few seconds, but there’s a strong argument to be made that The Witch isn’t even really a horror film at all. The problem is that if you remove the movie’s scarier elements, you’re left with a fairly uneventful historical drama.
2. Gone With The Wind
Gone With the Wind is a hard movie to recommend to people who haven’t already seen it. Looking past the film’s blatant racism and other unfortunate period-specific messages, Gone With the Wind is a nearly four-hour movie (it can actually cross that four-hour mark depending on the version you watch) that tells the story of proper Southerners trying to find love and live life as the Civil War threatens to burn and bury everything that they have ever known.
For the most part, that equates to a lot of ballroom dances, fainting dames, and the slowest courtship this side of a Jane Austen novel. Gone With The Wind was the greatest cinematic spectacle the world had ever known at the time of the movie’s release, but unless you love long-winded romanticized looks at the Confederacy, it’s not for you.
Shia Labeouf got into a bit of hot water a few years back when he described Steven Spielberg as more of a corporation than an actual person. While that’s a pretty harsh statement that stemmed from the frustrations Labeouf felt following the release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there is sentiment to the statement that those who watched Lincoln will probably sympathize with.
Lincoln is as pure of an Oscar bait film as you’re likely to find. It’s a historical drama about a notable American figure that checks all the right boxes (great lead actor, big name director, wonderful costumes and sets) that we associate with typically great films, but lacks any soul or character. Even worse, the movie takes several historical liberties in service of crafting a more compelling film drama, but it fails to be anything more than a technically good movie.
What other supposedly great movies are a bit of a bore? Let us know in the comments.
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