50 best epic movies ever – part two
Our 50 best epic movies list was so gargantuan in scope that we had to split it in two – here's the best of the rest, in no particular order.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
David Lean's life of T E Lawrence is justifiably regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, with barnstorming performances from Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness and Omar Sharif. It's undergoing a 4K restoration for release this year, to mark its 50th anniversary – if you have any interest in cinema at all, you have to see it on the big screen.
Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair (2004)
Quentin Tarantino's roaring rampage of revenge was originally concieved of as a single film – and in 2004 he screened the complete version of Kill Bill at Cannes, a full four hours of kung fu and spaghetti western homage.
A few tweaks were made for the omnibus edition, removing volume 1’s cliffhanger ending and dialling up the violence in the anime sequence. Most notably, The Bride's battle in the House of Blue Leaves doesn't cut to black and white halfway through – in the original, the monochrome portion was a sop to the censors offended by all the gore splattered over Uma Thurman's yellow tracksuit.
Dr Zhivago (1965)
Making fur coats sexy, David Lean's follow-up to Lawrence of Arabia was equally sweeping in scope, depicting the entire Russian Revolution through the doomed romance of poet-turned-doctor Yuri (Omar Sharif) and Lara (Julie Christie), the wife of a revolutionary. Filmed at the height of the Cold War, Lean's lasting achievement – since he wasn’t able to film in Russia – was his meticulous recreation of the country on location in Spain and Canada.
Zhang Yimou's wuxia saga is an epic in the truest sense of the word, combining a grand scale with a sweeping story that takes in four colour-coded acts. Jet Li's nameless hero figure takes on three assassins in order to get close to the king – but to what end? Harvey Weinstein's Miramax Films sat on the movie for ages, eventually agreeing to release it when Quentin Tarantino said he'd put his name on the promo material. Thanks, QT.
Mel Gibson may be best-known for his ill-advised telephone rants now, but in Braveheart he brought the crazy in a good way. His account of William Wallace's battle for FREEDOM! was riddled with historical inaccuracies (including, memorably, a white van seen in the background of one battle scene) but who cares, when the battles look this cool?