This weekend sees the release of two movies we at Cinema Blend liked a lot-- The Help, which Eric called "funny and charming without ever losing its focus", and 30 Minutes Or Less, which Katey praised as "a funny and fast-paced blast of silly energy." But if you go to the theater with someone who plans to see one while you see the other, you'll have to be creative with your timing-- The Help runs a sprawling two hours and 17 minutes, while 30 Minutes or Less clocks in at a lean 83 minutes. In other words, you could almost see 30 Minutes or Less twice in the time it takes The Help to wrap up.
There's a school of thought that says 90 minutes is the perfect length for a movie-- the length of 3 TV episodes, just enough time to get in, tell your story, and get out without wasting any more of the audience's time. There are countless examples that prove the rule, economically told stories that feel perfect and tight without a second wasted. And then there are just as many examples to disprove it, from sprawling epics like Lawrence of Arabia to improvised comedies like The 40-Year Old Virgin taking their sweet time. Obviously the 90-minute rule is one that's meant to be broken, which is how team Cinema Blend has assembled both to prove and disprove it. Below are 7 movies that prove 90 minutes--or even less!-- is all the time you need for a great movie. Coming up later today are 7 more movies that prove you can go as long as you want. As with everything in Hollywood, this is a rule that's meant to be broken-- and incredibly fun to discuss.
Airplane (88 Minutes)
Comedies need to be short. Get in, get a laugh, and get out. And Airplane!, Hollywood’s funniest comedy, boasts the healthiest jokes-per-minute ratio because of its tight run time. The Zucker-Abrams-Zucker trio brings this zany spoof in at a laugh-filled 88 minutes, averaging three gut-busting one-liners per minute. The rapid pacing leaves you little time to breathe as the film tosses joke after joke about retired NBA superstars, grown men who love gladiator movies and the soul side of Leave It to Beaver mom Barbara Billingsley. Airplane! has the perfect amount of one-liners to sustain its compact length, meaning there’s never a lull in the laughter and hardly a bomb in the bunch. Surely you can’t think of a funnier comedy that delivers this amount of laughter in a compact run time? You can’t … and don’t call me Shirley.
Beauty And The Beast (84 Minutes)
Beauty And The Beast is the greatest Disney movie of all time because it savors every single minute of its eighty-four minute runtime. There is not one wasted moment nor one split second dip in quality. Like a brilliantly constructed essay, each scene carefully and joyfully sets up the next while each new detail is introduced to further the plot. Belle’s love of reading is used to distance her from the dense Gaston. Maurice’s awful inventions are used to lure him away from Belle and keep the villagers from believing him later. It would have been easy for such a tight and streamlined film to lack the careless and fun spirit of Disney’s other classics, but the visuals and songs are so beautiful and exquisitely timed that every moment stands out. Ask someone what their favorite Beauty And The Beast scene is and every single one is a viable choice. It's eighty-four minutes of perfection.
Breathless (87 Minutes)
Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (or À bout de souffle) is arguably the first and perhaps most important film of the French New Wave but beyond all that it's just really inventive, effective and, well, rad. It's Godard's first film after writing as a film critic, eschewing traditional narrative structure, amongst all other 'bourgeois' Hollywood trappings, in favor of 87 minutes of low-budget, low-tech, effortless cool. The film is the epitome of Godard's theory that "All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl," and it doesn't hurt if the girl is Jean Seberg and the gun is in the hands of Jean Paul Bellamondo. Godard's inventive stylistic choices, like introducing the jump cut into cinematic vocabulary, kept the run-time down, choosing style over narrative coherence. Let's face it, you can't be cool if you overstay your welcome and Breathless certainly does not... it's loose, sexy and fast, not just a great film but a cinematic landmark in just 87 minutes.
Godzilla vs Megalon (78 Minutes)
Clocking in at an economical 78 minutes, in my mind Godzilla vs. Megalon is the crowning achievement of Toho’s enduring Godzilla franchise. But plug in just about any good monster movie and you’ll get similarly brisk stopwatch results. What Toho knew, and what any good B-movie should know, is that we’re there to see monsters mess things up. We’re there to see them smash buildings, to tear tanks asunder, to bathe each other in angry gouts of radioactive fire. We’re not there to see a lot of sanctimonious plot involving the folly of man, nor do we care all that much about that little kid and his inventor father, except as it relates to Jet Jaguar their rapidly growing, self-aware robot. Strip the plot down to the bare minimum, maybe even past the bare minimum down to the point where it makes no sense, and what are you left with? 78 minutes of all the monster on monster action you want, and not much else. It’s for the best.
Duck Soup (68 Minutes)
I’ll admit it: before this past week I had no idea that Duck Soup is only 68 minutes, but I do fully understand why I never noticed it before. It all has to do with the pacing of the Marx Brothers’ comedy, which can only be compared to a Gatling gun. There isn’t a single line delivered by Groucho or Chico that isn’t a joke and every twitch by Harpo is meant to send the audience into hysterics, and the genius part is that it all works. The film needs its short runtime because by the end of the film you’re so exhausted from laughing and your sides hurt so much that any more would simply be overkill.
Stand By Me (89 Minutes)
Adapted from Stephen King’s novella "The Body," Stand By Me uses a search for that body as an excuse to bring together four memorable kids who don’t fully realize they’re on the brink of growing up and going their separate ways in life. Given the amount of memorable moments and quote-worthy lines in this coming-of-age tale, it seems impossible that the movie falls just shy of an hour and a half. While I wouldn’t complain if there were more amusing campfire chatter, or perhaps another one of Gordy’s imaginative and excellently told stories, Stand By Me delivers just enough of everything. From humorous and heartfelt moments, and conflicts including a run-in with a pack of bullies, to the ultimate train dodge and a leech scene that still makes my skin crawl every time I watch it, Stand By Me is a true classic that feels far richer than its short running time suggests.
High Noon (85 Minutes)
Told almost in real time, as an entire town awaits the train arrival of the thugs who have tormented them for years, High Noon is a masterpiece of tension, based around a ticking clock and the classic Western promise of a gunfight at the end. But it's also a far more complicated movie than its macho reputation would suggest, taking an ambivalent stance toward the violence that solves most problems in Westerns, and presenting its lone hero-- Gary Cooper's Sheriff Will Kane-- not as a modest do-gooder, but a tired man disgusted with the townspeople who refuse to help him. At a lean 85 minutes High Noon never lets go of its remarkable tension, but finds time to bring up issues of race and class and community building in the Old West, not to mention throwing in a killer theme song for good measure.
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