Movies Don’t Have to Be So Freakin’ Long
A year ago this month A Quiet Place was released, and it’s one of my favorite horror films in recent years. It kept me on the edge of my seat from the beginning to the end, and I loved the mix of family drama, unique premise, and non-stop terror.
You know what else I loved about A Quiet Place?
I loved that it was short.
One of the first things I commented on when I walked out of the theater was how it was totally the perfect length — about 90 minutes. A two-hour version of A Quiet Place would have been good, too, but I don’t think it would have been as good.
There are some movies that should be two hours. There are even some movies that need to be longer.
But Shazam! in every single way screams to me a 90-minute movie. Okay, okay, maybe 95 minutes.
But 132 minutes? For a comedic superhero movie?
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Despite all the great reviews, and despite me, yes, actually wanting to see the movie, the running time puts me off a little bit.
Not because I hate a movie that runs longer than two hours. But because this just doesn’t appear to be a movie that needs to run more than two hours.
Why the trend of 2-hour-plus films lately?
Let’s look at the biggest box office hits of 2018 for a moment…
Black Panther — 2 hours, 20 minutes
Avengers: Infinity War — 2 hours, 36 minutes
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — 2 hours, 8 minutes
Aquaman — 2 hours, 19 minutes
Even Deadpool 2 and Ant-Man and the Wasp come in at about two hours.
The only live-action film that broke the top 20 of 2018 that comes in significantly shorter than two hours is, of course, A Quiet Place at 95 minutes. Other than that, basically all the big box office films of last year are two hours and up.
Why this need to make every major film so long? Is it because the filmmakers feel like audience members always want more, more, more? Is it because they’re guaranteed so many theater screens that they don’t have to worry about adding a potentially extra screening time per day?
Is it because the credits themselves seem to go on and on lately?
Longer running times certainly aren’t hurting these films in any way when it comes to box office receipts, but I question if most of last year’s major films needed to be as long as they are.
Black Panther was about the right length, but I’d say everything else I listed above could be 20 minutes shorter, easy. Especially Aquaman, a perfectly fun superhero adventure that some necessary trimming would have made all the better.
Were blockbuster films always this long?
Pretty much. Let’s go back a decade, or two, or three.
2009: All four of the top grossing films of the year (Avatar, Transformers 2, Harry Potter 6, New Moon) came in over two hours long.
1999: Phantom Menace, The Matrix, and The Sixth Sense were all over two hours.
1989: They do get a little shorter here. Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Lethal Weapon 2 hover around the two-hour mark and don’t much over it.
But in a way, yes, blockbuster films have always been on the longer side.
And I find it interesting that still, in 2019, when our lives seem to be so much busier, and it seems like everyone’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter, that new mainstream popular films have running times that are longerthan ever before.
It was just announced that Avengers: Endgame is going to be a whopping three hours in length. Three hours.
I don’t know about you, but these absurdly long running times often feel unnecessary to me.
Sure, at the end of the day, a film should be as long as it needs to be. And as Roger Ebert once said, a good movie is never long enough and a bad movie is never over soon enough. If the movie’s captivating, then fine, go over two hours. Some of my favorite films of all time are longer than two hours.
But when it comes to some films, 2 hours and 12 minutes just seems excessive. I’ll be checking out Shazam! and we’ll see if this running time flies by. Sometimes that does happen. Maybe it will happen in this case, too.
I just hope more filmmakers will take chances on films that tell their stories, and tell them well, with shorter running times. A Quiet Place is a great example. Gravity is another one. Before Sunset. Stand by Me. Many of the greatest comedies of all time.
There’s no shame in a movie being short. Screenwriters, directors, editors… let’s start to embrace the 90-minute film!
Royce Proctor from Dallas, Texas on April 30, 2019:
The reason most movies are 2 hours long is because most filmmakers need that 2 hours to tell a competent story. Telling a story and character development takes time.
Also I don't think more people like longer films. Although the box office is dominated by longer films, you have to look at the fact that their all in franchises. If Marvel released a 30 minute short film it would still make a few hundred million.