Top 10 Films That Took Forever to Make
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Andrew Tejada
These movies were literally a long time coming. From Roar, to The Evil Within, to It Happened here, it took forever for these films to get released. WatchMojo ranks to top longest movie shoots.
Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks:
Special thanks to our user Freemantle_uk for suggesting this idea!
These film projects had a really, really, really, long journey to the big screen. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Longest Movie Shoots.
For this list, we're looking at film shoots that intentionally or unintentionally ran longer than the average production. We’ll only be looking at live-action films, so “The Thief and the Cobbler” and its 29-year journey to the completion will not be included.
#10: “The Evil Within” (2017)
In 2002, Andrew Getty, an heir to the Getty oil fortune, decided to create a horror film. The tale revolved around a mentally challenged boy whose nightmares are stalked by a demon that wanted him to commit murders. Although Getty didn’t have much film experience, he had plenty of money to construct detailed sets, hire actors, and build animatronic robots. The project set him back between four to six million dollars and took five years to shoot. Unfortunately, Getty succumbed to health issues before he could finish editing. His producer later completed the project and released the twisted tale in 2017.
#9: “Roar” (1981)
The length of this shoot was nowhere near as notorious as its accidents. In 1976, actress Tippi Hedren and her husband started filming “Roar,” a movie that brought in over 100 live animals. Although the duo lived with wild animals for years, there will still numerous accidents. The cinematographer was scalped by a lion, an elephant fractured Tippi Hedren’s leg and her daughter needed surgery for facial injuries. Between those incidents and the set being wrecked by flooding, the shoot dragged on for years and cost 17 million dollars. To literally add insult to injury, “Roar” bombed and earned just two million worldwide.
#8: “Dimension” (2010)
The controversial Lars von Trier is no stranger to ambitious projects. Back in 1990, he and co-writer Niels Vørsel wanted to start a project that explored the nature of time. They intended to shoot a few minutes of film each year for thirty-three years with a small cast. Filming began in 1991 and was scheduled to last until 2024... but stopped in 1997. According to reports, von Trier didn’t want to work on it anymore and moved on to other projects. Despite failing to reach his multi-decade target, von Trier’s existing footage was compiled into a short film with a long history.
#7: “Mughal-e-Azam” [aka “The Great Mughal”] (1960)
If Hollywood wanted to remake this epic film, they’d need 8,000 soldiers, 4,000 horses, and 2,000 camels. Maybe we should explain. In the 1940s, an Indian director named K. Asif wrote a screenplay about a prince who has a forbidden romance with a dancer. Their love eventually leads to tragedy and a civil war. Although there are conflicting reports as to when principal photography on the movie actually began, filming lasted for at least six years and possibly up to nine throughout the 1950s. The elaborate sets and drama captured the imagination of moviegoers and earned “Mughal-e-Azam” a permanent place in Indian cinema.
#6: “Hard to Be a God” (2013)
“Hard to Be a God” was a bleak adaptation of a Russian sci-fi novel. In the book, a group of scientists travel to a civilization on another planet that is full of violence and depravity. Although director Aleksei German started development in the 1960s, censorship laws and a competing movie delayed his version for decades. When he finally started in 2000, his meticulous filming lasted for six years. Unfortunately, German died during the editing process. His family went on to finish and release the film in 2013. Although it got a few negative reviews, German’s unique and experimental visuals were still praised.
#5: “Pakeezah” (1972)
The tale of a courtesan and her daughter struggling to find love and acceptance barely survived its long shooting schedule. After director Kamal Amrohi devised the concept in the 1950s, he cast his wife Meena Kumari in two lead roles. However, the couple went through a separation in 1964 that caused Kumari to leave production. Her dual roles were not recast, leaving Amrohi to wait until she returned in 1969 to finish the shoot. Once again, accounts differ as to when filming actually started. Judging by the film’s 1972 release, at least seven years were spent bringing this romantic classic to life.
#4: “It Happened Here” (1964)
Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo were teenagers without a big budget, professional actors, or enough film. They aimed to create a film about an alternate UK occupied by Nazis during World War II. With their small budget, volunteers had to play most of the acting roles. But even with a full cast, their struggles to pay for necessities like film stock caused the shoot to last almost eight years. Fortunately, famous directors like Stanley Kubrick pitched in to donate film stock. Today, the finished movie is a stunning example of what rookie artists can accomplish with a little determination and a lot of support.
#3: “Perspective” (2012-20)
This entry isn’t quite finished yet, but it’s too unique to ignore. The plot of this film is pretty straightforward. Three people named Alex are stuck in a love triangle. But unlike the average movie where each actor plays one character, three actors constantly switch their roles with each other, sometimes during scenes. This mind-bending premise is paired with a long shooting schedule. Director B. P. Paquette intentionally chose to film short segments of the film each year since 2012. Paquette intends to continue filming until 2020. When “Perspective” releases in full, Alex, Alex, and Alex will have been fighting for love for about nine years.
#2: “Boyhood” (2014)
Richard Linklater was yet another director that wanted to film in real time. For his coming-of-age story “Boyhood,” he brought the concept to new heights by shooting over an astonishing twelve consecutive years. Since the cast remained the same throughout the process, we got to see the actors age in real time as they experienced a mixture of scripted drama and spontaneous events. Linklater’s creative choices, like shooting entirely on 35mm film and a few clever transitions helped the narrative feel seamless. The revolutionary movie debuted in 2014 to wide critical acclaim and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama.
Before we roll the camera on our top pick, here are some honorable mentions.
#1: “Coffee and Cigarettes” (2004)
This 2004 film got its start nearly two decades before its debut. In 1986, director Jim Jarmusch made a short for “SNL” where two men discussed coffee and cigarettes. This later inspired him to create more shorts that could be added to the first to form a feature length film. It took Jarmusch almost 18 years to film ten more vignettes. While the plot of each piece varied, each scene featured coffee and cigarettes alongside wild celebrity cameos. Iggy Pop, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, and more make strange and hilarious appearances. Although critics debate the movie’s quality as a whole, there’s no denying that Jarmusch took his time to put it all together.