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Top 10 Movies That Took FOREVER to Make!

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Oliver Skinner These movies were in production for many years before they finally made it to the silver screen! WatchMojo presents the top 10 films that took years to get from development and finally to the silver screen. But which film emerged from development hell to make the top of our list? Was it Richard Linklater's Boyhood, The Thief and the Cobbler, or the classic Tiefland? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to salisha for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo user's voted, check out our suggest page here: http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Longest+Movies+to+Create

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If you think you struggle to finish things on time, just wait until you see what these filmmakers went through. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies that took the longest to make.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the films that took an abnormally long time to get made. We’ll also be ranking our selections based on each film’s origin story, so if the production’s context was especially fascinating, that bumps it up on our list.

#10: “Sleeping Beauty” (1959)
Years: 8

With early script work beginning in 1951, this Walt Disney classic suffered a number of rewrites before finally making it to cinemas in 1959 – four years after its planned release date. But what really took the film eight whole years to produce was its intricate animation process. After the immense success of “Cinderella,” Walt Disney strived for the characters in his new project to appear “as real as possible, near flesh-and-blood.” To achieve this, an entire version of the film was recorded with real actors in costume for the animators to model their sketches upon, meaning they practically had to make the movie twice.

#9: “Roar” (1981)
Years: 11

Billed as the most expensive home movie ever made, this pick employed an assortment of untrained animals, including elephants, tigers, and a pride of lions whom director Noel Marshall and his wife, Hitchcock starlet Tippi Hedren, had adopted to live with on their Californian ranch. The shoot began in 1974, but was struck by a setback when a flood destroyed completed footage and took the lives of several of the feline stars. What’s more, 70 members of the cast and crew were injured by the animals featured in the film. The final budget was $17 million, but the finished film hardly spent a week in cinemas and grossed only $2 million. Ouch.

#8: “Apocalypse Now” (1979)
Years: 5

There’s an entire documentary, entitled “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” which chronicles the lengths to which Francis Ford Coppola and his crew went in order to get this film made, just to offer an idea of how grueling its long shoot was. Of course, it should be noted that even though it was notoriously drawn-out, Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” currently holds the Guinness World Record for the longest unbroken shoot period at 46 weeks. Yet this Vietnam War adventure had to push through production against all odds, notably after their sets were tarnished by a storm, Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack, and Marlon Brando arrived onset overweight. Despite this flurry of issues that threatened to shut the film down for good, “Apocalypse Now” went on to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

#7: “The Simpsons Movie” (2007)
Years: 9

“Simpsons” creator Matt Groening originally conceived a film version of the hit comedy, to be developed after the series ended. The crew also attempted to turn the season 4 episode “Kamp Krusty” into its own movie. But ultimately, in 1997, FOX finally green-lit the project, and in 2001 most of the voice cast gave their okays. The writers then spent six months deciding on a plot, even considering a musical at one point, with the screenplay undergoing over 100 revisions. Despite the delays, the resulting animated comedy was a success on the silver screen, with appearances from almost every one of the show’s roughly 320 characters, as well as the introduction of fan favorite Spider Pig.

#6: “Avatar” (2009)
Years: 10

Seeing as how this sci-fi epic proceeded to become the highest-grossing film of all time, it’s safe to say its 10-year production length was well worth it. On the heels of his achievements with “Titanic,” director James Cameron worked with world-class visual designers to shape his alien race, the Na’vi. Once he realized how advanced his vision was for his original 1997 production start date, he spent the following years developing new 3-D camera and CGI technology in order to properly bring the fantasy planet Pandora to life. Over $230 million and a plethora of technical breakthroughs later, and “Avatar” broke records and changed the landscape of the craft of cinema forever.

#5: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)
Years: 15

George Miller, the mastermind behind the original “Mad Max” trilogy, spent years attempting to re-acquire the rights to his franchise. He planned to begin shooting the action film in 2001, but the 9/11 attacks caused the Australian dollar to drop too significantly compared to the American dollar, and the project was scrapped. Miller then turned his focus to decidedly lighter subject matter: the musical penguin romp “Happy Feet.” After years of development hell, where Heath Ledger was even briefly in talks to play Max, principal photography finally kicked off in the summer of 2012, with the fiery car chase film hitting cinemas in 2015. Unlike most films in the action genre, “Fury Road” received ten Oscar nominations and took home six statues.

#4: “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” (2017)
Years: 18

This pick is actually set for release in 2017, but following its whopping 18-year production history, it’s tough to say whether this loose adaptation of “Don Quixote” will ever see the light of day. Centered on an advertising executive who jumps back and forth between 21st century London and 17th century La Mancha, the film is directed by Terry Gilliam, who’s tried to make the film eight times over the last two decades. Its newest version stars Adam Driver and Olga Kurylenko, and sees Driver cross paths with the eponymous hero, played by Michael Palin. Issues like equipment ruined by flooding, actor Jean Rochefort having to leave the production due to illness, and long-lasting troubles securing funds have kept his ambitious project in production hell, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

#3: “Tiefland” (1954)
Years: 20

WWII got in the way of this movie, and that’s because its director, Leni Riefenstahl, put the shoot on hold to work on propaganda films for the Nazi regime. In fact, you may know her work from Hitler’s Nuremberg Rally documentary, “Triumph of the Will.” Wartime destruction displaced the production several times, thus Riefenstahl had to relocate to Spain and the Czech Republic at several points in order to finish her work. Unable to pin down an actress of her liking, Riefenstahl even cast herself in the lead role and later regretted it: by that point she had just turned 40, while 23-year-old Franz Eichberger played her lover. All in all, the romantic picture took two decades to get on-screen– still holding the record for the live action movie with the longest production time.

#2: “Boyhood” (2014)
Years: 12

Perhaps the most famous film whose production relied on the passage of time, Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age drama took 12 years to shoot. IFC films entrusted Linklater with a budget of $200,000, and each year from 2002 to 2013, a young Ellar Coltrane would meet with Linklater and crew to record a time-lapse of his adolescence, his relationship with mother Patricia Arquette and father Ethan Hawke, highlighting the very essence of growing up. From the world events captured in the background, like President Barack Obama’s election, to a soundtrack chronicling evolutions in radio pop, this cinematic breakthrough is truly a time capsule that can only exist because it took so long to make.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

- “The Manson Family” (2003)
Years: 15

- “Pakeezah” (1972)
Years: 14

- “Cronos” (1993)
Years: 8

#1: “The Thief and the Cobbler” (1993)
Years: 28

Although several versions of this film have been released, we’re going with the 1993 cut that’s also known as “The Princess and the Cobbler.” This animated fantasy took a lifetime of work before it reached audiences, since animator Richard Williams took on outside jobs to raise money for his dream project starting in 1964. After a stream of story revisions and countless failures to secure funding, it wasn’t until the ‘80s that Williams’ work caught the eye of Steven Spielberg, who hired him to helm the Academy Award-winning “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Although this helped him score a deal with Warner Bros., a rough version of the film was deeply unsuccessful, leading producers to pull out. Loads of completed animation ultimately hit the cutting room floor before Williams was stripped of all control.

Do you agree with our list? Which films do you think Hollywood took way too long to make? For more persistent Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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