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Best Top Epic Movies and Films List

Updated on June 8, 2013
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What Is an Epic Film?


The story telling in an Epic film is extravagant, majestic, and full of grandeur focused around a heroic figure. Epic movies follow an adventure. They include movies about:

  • War Films (Saving Private Ryan)
  • Medieval Films (Robin Hood)
  • Biblical Films (The Ten Commandments)
  • Historic Films (Schindler's List)
  • Mythical Films (Avatar)
  • Legendary Films (Gone With The Wind)

An epic film focuses on a grandiose visual and auditory feeling or movement and not always staying true to the authentic history being portrayed. Costumes are often lavish, music scores worthy of an Academy award, action scenes are on a massive scale and the cast is many to depict depth in the story. Thousands of men a line for war. Thousands of men gather in an arena in Rome. Thousands of storm troopers a line for an epic battle of good versus the dark forces.

Epics have always been a movie genre from the beginning of American Film History including:

  • The King of Kings
  • Ben-Hur
  • Lawrence of Arabia

Top Epic Films

Epics captivate the viewer. In the1997 film Titanic, the viewer becomes part of the story by listening to the story-teller. As the ship sinks, the viewer also hopes for survival.

In epics, empathy, fear, courage and love are transferred from hero to movie goer. Tears of sadness evoke from untimely deaths, hearts swoon when love captures, eyes flinch when war fought for a nobel cause, gripping chairs viewers immerse into something greater.

An epic movie can depict an average human doing extraordinary events. The situation and turn of events that develop the main character's heroic persona stirs hope, courage and triumph within the movie viewer.

Additional noteworthy epic movies include:

  1. Lord of the Rings
  2. Harry Potter
  3. Gladiator
  4. 300
  5. BraveHeart
  6. Empire of the Son
  7. Reds
  8. Tombstone
  9. Starwars
  10. Avatar
  11. Rocky
  12. Patriot
  13. Last of the Mohicans
  14. Shashank Redemption
  15. Prince of Persia
  16. The Godfather
  17. Patton
  18. Gandhi
  19. Raiders of the Lost Arc
  20. The Last Emperor
  21. Kingdom of Heaven
  22. Apocalypto
  23. Platoon
  24. Rambo
  25. Reds
  26. How The West Was Won (rcrumple commented below this epic was overlooked)

How is this list? Thorough including the other movies I mentioned in the introduction? I am sure I missed some, perhaps a favorite of yours. Think about your top 5 favorite movies hold them in your mind's eye and take the quiz below.

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What are your top five epic movies?


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What do all these Epic Films Have in Common?

All of these epic movies discussed above have one thing in common. They all have a strong male hero as the main focus of the movie. If you research epic movies most of them would depict strong male oriented roles and stories.

Sure there are women in the story lines, but they are not the main focus of the movie. Often the women in these epic films are depicted as someone who needs saving from heinous lustful men, needs romantic love, fought for, and for a man to earn redemption by fighting for her namesake. She plays a key role in the epic movies. However, she does not play the main role as a heroine. She is not the one in the gladiator arena or on the war field. Of coarse women would not partake in those roles during that time era. However, a women's role in history, or a futuristic movie about women can also tell a story worthy of being on an epic scale.

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10 Min Epic Film Tribute...Not One Woman.

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Epic Heroine Movies

Without a sword fight or a crusade noteworthy of making a million dollar epic movie, does that mean women's stories in history or projection of their persona in the future are not worthy of being made into an epic film? Are epic films about a woman less interesting because she is not on the front lines to battle a cause?

There are exceptional epic movies that focus on the heroine's courage and struggles as the main element in the movie. Women have multi demensions beyond a passionate lover, seductrices and needed to be protected.

Epic heroine movie roles:

  • Leader
  • Queen
  • Boxer
  • Spy
  • Assassin
  • Innovator
  • Crusader
  • Boxer

Below are twelve epic films to consider a heroine as the main protagonist.

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Aliens

Hearing a radio call and interrupting it as an S.O.S call, Ellen Ripley and a crew of six more land to offer support only to find out the call was a warning signal not to come. She is not listen too when she demands they quarantine one of the crew members due to having an alien parasite growing on him. The alien begins to attack the crew. After everything begins to fall a part she leads the crew to dispel the alien.

"That's the only way. We'll move in pairs. We'll go step by step and cut off every bulkhead and every vent until we have it cornered. And then we'll blow it the fuck out into space! Is that acceptable to you?"

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The Hunger Games

The heroine Katniss Everdeen volunteers to save her sister from being summon to partake in the Hunger Games on Reaping day. On Reaping day one male and one female is called from each of the 12 districts to fight to the death in an arena. Those called can be anywhere in the age range of 12 to 18. Katniss must prove her intellect and sharp survival skills to compete in the Hunger Games. At age 16, she is forced to make impossible decisions regarding death and humanity, love and life.

“Winning means fame and fortune.
Losing means certain death.
The Hunger Games have begun…”


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Tomb Raider

Lara Croft is a futuristic archeologist collecting ancient artifacts from ruins. Her passion to raid tombs brings her to dangerous combat situations. Skilled in hand to hand combat, weapons training and foreign languages Lara is a strong heroine. A society called the Illuminatia captured a key from Lara's collection to control time.

Lara was first introduced through the gaming world in 1996. She continues to be a strong female protagonist on film and in the gaming community.

"Well we can do it my way, or we can all come back in time for the next allignment and you're welcome to try to kill me then, in oh, say, another 5,000 years?"

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Elizabeth

Elizabeth

Young, naïve and vulnerable, Elizabeth takes her thrown when England is bankrupt, has no army, and is under serious threat from abroad. To secure her realm she quickly gains wisdom and confidence. She learns to trust her own truth and knowledge above all else. Especially after she is betrayed by her lover.

"I may be a woman, Sir William, but if I choose I have the heart of a man! I am my father's daughter, and I am not afraid of anything."

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Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth's reign continues, she is pressured and sought after to be married. She refuses to marry. Plots to assassin her, betrayal from her closest allies, religious tension between Catholics and Protestants tests her resolve. Elizabeth truly prevails through all her personal and countries obstacles. She is the Queen mother to her English people and gives birth to the Golden Age.

"Let us not fear shadows in the dark and courage when the day of danger truly dawns."

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Cleopatra

Cleopatra lures Julius Caesar to forge an alliance with Rome and Egypt. Unfortunately, Caesar, her confidant, is stabbed to death. Cleopatra then seduces his successor Mark Anthony. Her ability to charm and bait Mark Anthony causes Rome to retreat during a battle with Egypt. Drama continues that eventually leads to the founding of the Roman Empire.

"My breasts are full of love and life. My hips are round and well apart. Such women, they say, have sons."


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Million Dollar Baby

Maggie has a tenacious spirit and will not give up. At age 31 she proves she is not too old for boxing. Her persistent will to fight is seen in the boxing ring and out.

Problem is, this the only thing I ever felt good doing. If I'm too old for this then I got nothing. That enough truth to suit you?



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Atonement

Atonement is about two sisters each showcasing their fortitude in coming to terms with a happening that was confusing and misunderstood. Due to the tragedy each sister's heroism is experienced by how they cope with life after the trauma and mature into adults. Both become separated as Britain is also dealing with its own trauma due to war.

"I am very, very sorry for the terrible distress that I have caused you. I am very, very sorry."

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La Femme Nikita

Nikita is a convicted felon. She is given a new identity and trained as a top-secret assassin, instead of going to jail. With humanity and action the movie is intriguing, as Nikita's passion gives her heroine qualities.


"...you've got it backwards. Its not death you have to be afraid of, that's the easy part. Its life that you have to worry about."

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

A teenage nobleman's daughter, Yu, finds herself in a middle of a quest to find a stolen sword. As she is coming of age she blurs the bounds of childhood into adulthood. Her youth and innocence find her in the middle of a love triangle. The action packed sequence finds our heroine scaling walls, jumping from roof tops and almost flying on top of bamboo trees. The epic part of this movie is fought with aerial skills instead of hand to hand ground combat.

"You want to know who I am? I am... I am the Invincible Sword Goddess, armed with the Green Destiny that knows no equal! Be you Li or Southern Crane, bow your head and ask for mercy! I am the dragon from the desert! Who comes from nowhere and leaves no trace! Today I fly over Eu-Mei. Tomorrow... I topple Mount Wudan! "

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Kill Bill

Bill is a leader of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and lover to the character called 'The Bride.' With child she decides to escape from her life as a killer. She settles down with a young man and at their weedingrehearsal he was murdered by a jealous vengeful Bill and she ends up in a coma for four years. Her fiancé is dead and her baby is gone, she seeks revenge upon the five people who destroyed her life.

"But I am gonna ask you questions. And every time you don't give me answers, I'm gonna cut something off. And I promise you, they will be things you will miss. Give me your other arm! "

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Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of Geisha

At nine years old, Chiyo is sold to a geisha house. Her father, a poor fisherman, can no longer take care of her now that his wife is deceased. As she comes of age she learns about the art of becoming a geisha. Her beauty stands out among the other girls and attracts vindictive jealous. Trained in all the artistic and social skills of a geisha she becomes a master to survive in her society.

"Remember, Chiyo, geisha are not courtesans. And we are not wives. We sell our skills, not our bodies. We create another secret world, a place only of beauty. The very word "geisha" means artist and to be a geisha is to be judged as a moving work of art."



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Balance is the Key

On a Sunday afternoon, I enjoying watching a good epic movie, or series like Lord of the Rings. I can cheer with the men on the battlefields and remember notable quotes like this one from Gladiator.

"My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

Just like eating mindlessly, we can mindlessly be subject to story telling with a strong male protagonist and women being the ones needing saved or avenged for. The subject is not wrong, however, if that is all we are consuming over time these stories become a part of us. They become our beliefs unknowingly.

Having a balance view benefits girls coming of age as well as boys. Both sexes in movies show impeccable strength and vulnerabilities. I believe Hollywood is changing epic films to depict more women as the main protagonist. It will serve all of us to have a more balanced concept of heroic figures being both men and women.

Has your view changed?


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© Copyright Carly Sullens 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      Wow...that was some serious research. I am definitely sharing this with peeps! Good work, nice bucket list to have if I want to grab an epic movie!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great selection of movies. You did a great job of preparing this hub; well-researched and the layout was great. I've probably seen 75% of these movies....I still have some work to do.

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you. Honestly, I have not seen Aliens. I have to cover my eyes and hide my head between my knees on the Disney ride when the Alien comes out of the ceiling. If I can not get through a Disney ride, how would I ever get through the movie. I do know many people appreciate that movie though.

      WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE EPIC MOVIE?

    • GoForTheJuggler profile image

      Joshua Patrick 4 years ago from Texas

      Russel Crowe's Robin Hood is my current epic film favorite. It is, without a doubt, the best Robin Hood film ever made.

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Yes, that is a great epic movie, Russel Crowe's Robin Hood. If I had to pick between Russel Crowe's epic movies though, I would have to go with Gladiator. The soundtrack to Gladiator is what steals the deal for me.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Oh wow...am I pathetic if I've seen all of these movies with the exception of: War Horse, The Hunger Games, and Atonement? :) Get hub and a ton of information. Excellent!

    • GoForTheJuggler profile image

      Joshua Patrick 4 years ago from Texas

      Carly, great call - soundtracks can make or break films as much as any other factor. Only two of our senses are stimulated when we watch films (until Smell-O-Vision is perfected, that is). People often take the soundtrack for granted since we focus primarily on what we see, so sound often takes a backseat because it isn't as tangible.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Perhaps, one of the greatest epic movies of all time would be "Gone With The Wind". This Civil War masterpiece covers life before, during and after the war between the states. Another, that actually played at the theaters for years, would be "How The West Was Won". Great list!

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      ahhh, rcrumple that was my trickiest one, "Gone With The Wind." I did add it to the top in Legendary Films, in the opening paragraph. However, I struggled with putting Scarlett O'Hara as a heroine. Does she have the same qualities as the other women noted, I would ask myself? Scarlett probably will not be able to kill an alien or lead Europe or fight furiously. Where does she fit in?

      "How The West Was Won" is one I over looked. I will add it in now. Thank you for the comment.

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      The woman who sings in Gladiator is Lisa Gerrard. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful. Rich with earthy tones. Not a pop bubble gum singer. The songs she sings in Gladiator she uses an invented language. They're not words of any specific languages nor they mean anything. She is known to sing most of her songs in this made-up language. She was the lead singer to a group called Dead Can Dance.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Last of The Mohicans and Elizabeth!! Great picks out of a fabulous list.

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Shiningirisheyes,

      Talk about soundtracks Last of the Mohicans is one of my favorites, along with The Mission, with Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. I think The Mission is epic too, but most people have not seen that one so I left it out, but highly recommend it.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I have seen most of the epic movies you mentioned, but still have a few to catch. I must say that Schindler's List was a great movie but one that I will not watch again. I found it to realistic and sad. Love the male character leads, but have found a few with good women heroines (Tomb Raider for example).

    • GoForTheJuggler profile image

      Joshua Patrick 4 years ago from Texas

      I will definitely be checking out The Mission - two of my favorite actors right there!

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Let me know what you think after you watch it.

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      That was awesome! WE have some copy of these movies. My sister used to watch them..

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Carly,

      WOW! Excellent list of epic movies; I have seen about half of them! Extensive research here; very informative hub! Give yourself a pat on the back Carly; you deserve it! A very enjoyable read!

    • CarlySullens profile image
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      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Thank you Josh. You might want to pick out some of those movies you have not seen yet.

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