We like 'em BIG. Lavish sets, foreign locations, thousands of extras, and millions of dollars. In other words, we love the epics. Epic movies have a knack for escaping the boundaries of the movie screen, making every nuance feel important.

Many film critics have claimed that Hollywood no longer knows how to make a good epic (with the possible exception of Titanic). This may be true, but it doesn't mean that we have to forget the classics. So enjoy these 5 all-time greatest epics.


Joseph Conrad's book Heart of Darkness was set in the Belgian Congo, yet when Francis Ford Coppola made this film adaptation, he switched the setting to Viet Nam. Although the geographic and temporal settings are widely disparate, the same themes prevail: namely, that civilization is only a hair's breadth away from total, unadulterated chaos. And the only thing keeping the two apart is a man called Kurtz.

In this case, Kurtz is the terrifying figure of Marlon Brando - terrifying mainly because he outweighs his Godfather self by about 400 pounds. Okay, not that much, but enough to give the native cannibals some food for thought. Martin Sheen plays a U.S. soldier given the mission to "terminate with extreme prejudice" Colonel Kurtz, a renegade U.S. officer. The story follows Sheen's progress on a PT boat down a river into the heart of the jungle, and his fraying sense of civilization along the way. The film culminates in the confrontation of Sheen and Brando at Brando's outpost, of which he is de facto king.

Perhaps more gripping than the narrative of the film is the story of the film itself. Coppola had tremendous difficulty finishing this movie, stopping several times to raise additional money before returning to Asia to shoot. A typhoon destroyed the sets, the 6-week production schedule ended up taking 16 months, and Coppola ended up losing 100 pounds due to all the stress. Furthermore, Brando continually showed up drunk and refused to read his lines, and Sheen had a heart attack mid-filming. Just another typical movie shoot, eh?


  • Nominated for 8 Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Director, and Supporting Actor)

  • Won 2 Academy Awards: Best Cinematography and Sound

  • A 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne played a supporting role

  • Placed #28 on the American Film Institute's "100 Greatest Movies" List