10 Movies That Took Forever to Make

IFC Films

How Long It Took: 12 years, or 3 particularly embarrassing growth spurts.

Why It Took So Long: Director Richard Linklater wanted to capture the process of growing up in a way that was true to life, so he brought a group of actors together for a week every year for twelve years in order to chart Mason's (Ellar Coltrane) life from age 6 to 18.

Was It Worth It? 100 percent. It might change the way we look at films altogether, if our review is anything to go by.

The Lego Movie
<em>The Lego Movie</em>
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection

How Long It Took: 4 years, or 7 quests to the top of Lord Business’ tower

Why It Took So Long: Animated films tend to take a long time in general, but The Lego Movie took a bit longer than normal, thanks to the extensive script rewrites that needed to be done – much of the original planned film The Piece of Resistance was scrapped and reworked – and all of the detail that went into animating every single Lego brick in the film. And there were a lot of them.

Was It Worth It? Definitely. Everything about The Lego Movie is awesome, and now you have that song stuck in your head. You’re welcome.

Libra Films International via Everett Collection

How Long It Took: 5 years or 4 investigations into who killed Laura Palmer

Why It Took So Long: What was supposed to be a student film turned into an epic experience, thanks to David Lynch’s hyper attention to detail – one shot of Jack Nance entering a room took a full year to complete – and a lack of funding. However, Lynch subsidized much of the project himself by delivering newspapers, and friends like Jack Fisk and Sissy Spacek all donated money to the film. Even Nance’s wife, Catherine Coulson, donated her waitressing income in order to keep the film going for years.

Was It Worth It? Of course. Eraserhead is one of the weirdest, most unsettling movies ever made. And we love it for that.

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Sleeping Beauty
<em>Sleeping Beauty</em>
Walt Disney Studios

How Long It Took: 8 years, or the time it takes for 2 of Maleficent’s curses to take effect

Why It Took So Long: Before any artwork or animation work could start, the entire film was filmed on a soundstage with real actors, so that the animators would have something to model all of the characters on. Once the labor-intensive process, which involved hand-inking the cels and paying such attention to detail that background animation could sometimes take up to a week a frame to complete, began, Walt Disney needed to sign off on every single day’s work, adjusting things until he felt they were perfect.

Was It Worth It? Angelina Jolie sure thinks so. If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for us.

October Films via Everett Collection

How Long It Took: 8 years, or about how long it’ll be until we get another Hellboy

Why It Took So Long: Guillermo del Toro’s dedication to every detail of his films was enough to guarantee a long shooting schedule, but then the film ran over budget, which brought filming to a halt. Del Toro raised the last bit himself through loans, some of which had a 60 percent interest rate, and star Ron Perlman was forced to take a pay cut. That he graciously did so solidified his friendship with the director for life.

Was It Worth it? Financially, no, but Cronos was critically acclaimed and became a cult hit, which helped del Toro get the Hellboy films.

The Simpsons Movie
<em>The Simpsons Movie</em>
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection

How Long It Took: 9 years, or how old Bart has been for the last quarter century

Why It Took So Long: Fox green lit the film way back in 1997. In the years until its release in 2007, they had to get the voice cast to sign on (which they did in 2001), almost 160 versions of the script were written (plots kept being repurposed for TV episodes) and animation needed to start production, which took several years to complete.

Was It Worth It? Well, it's not as good as classic Simpsons episodes, but it did give us Spider-Pig, so it's probably a trade off. Oh, and it was a massive hit at the box office, so that helps too.

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20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection

How Long It Took: 10 years, or 6 trips to Pandora and back

Why It Took So Long: Writer and director James Cameron had originally planned to start filming in 1997, after finishing Titanic, but was forced to wait until the technology needed to make Pandora come alive was completed. In addition, years of work was put into the screenplay, the language of the Na’vi and the development of the special effects.

Was It Worth It? The film’s 9 Academy Award nominations and the fact that it is the highest grossing movie of all time would indicate say yes.


How Long It Took: 11 years, or 3 circles of life

Why It Took So Long: Dubbed “the most expensive home movie ever made,” Roar was plagued with problems from the start. Principal photography, which lasted four years, had to be set back for several more after a flood destroyed the ranchlands where they were filming, ruined the set and killed many of the lions. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the floods also destroyed a good deal of completed footage, which sent the whole production back to the drawing board.

Was It Worth It? As a film? Probably not, but in terms of the amount of awareness and money that star Tippi Hendren has raised in the years since for the protection of African wildlife? Definitely.

Janus Films via Everett Collection

How Long It Took: 20 years, or about four World Wars

Why It Took So Long: Writer and director Leni Riefenstahl began the script in 1934, but put it on hold to work on war propaganda for the Nazis. After her influence with Hitler allowed her to start her own production company, she started filming in 1940, although the film kept having to delay production and move locations because of the war. Shooting ended in 1944, but after the war, the film was confiscated by French authorities, and not returned until several years later, missing several reels of footage. She finally released it in 1954 to mostly negative reviews.

Was It Worth It? Not really. Critics and scholars study it now in order to understand the culture of Nazi Germany, but they’re the only people interested in it.

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The Thief and the Cobbler
<em>The Thief and the Cobbler</em>
Miramax Films

How Long It Took: 28 years, or enough time for a child to be born, raised on Disney movies, grow up, get married and have kids of their own

Why It Took So Long: Writer, director and head animator Richard Williams began the film in 1964, intending for it to be his masterpiece, but due to a lack of funding, production only occurred in short bursts for twenty years. In 1988, thanks to his work on the hit film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Williams was able to secure funding and distribution from Warner Bros. However, production kept going over time and budget, and so control of the film was taken away from Williams, and it was completed without him and released in 1993. Whew.

Was It Worth It? That depends on what version you’re talking about. The original version, and the re-edited re-release that came out two years later is generally disliked, but the unofficial “Recobbled” version is more interesting.