The perfect movie

A recent discussion wandered onto the subject of movies, and how films seem to be getting longer these days.

Never one to pass up a promising bit of research for the blog, I set off to investigate. Are films actually getting longer? Or were we imagining it?

The IMDb Top 250 seemed like a reasonable place to begin, so I set to prodding and poking at it to see what I could discover. Several hours later, I knew a lot more about the IMDb than I did when I started, and I’d found out some interesting things.

Firstly, let me caveat this – the Top 250 is somewhat of a moveable feast, relying as it does on the user-supplied rankings. There are some questionable choices on the list (The Bourne Ultimatum? Really? I love me a bit of Bourne, but that’s stretching things a bit far), and it does lean towards the modern releases (73/250 are from 2000 onwards), but it does stretch back to 1921 and Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, so would do for my purposes.

I dumped the raw data into a spreadhseet and crunched some numbers.

Mmm, crunchy numbers.

A straight average of running times gives us 127 minutes. The shortest film in the list clocks in at a mere 68 minutes (Chaplin’s The Kid, again) and the longest is Gone With The Wind, at 238 minutes.

Look, I did a graph and everything.

movie runtime

Adding a trendline shows that movies *are* getting slightly longer from just over 120 minutes to just over 130. Interestingly though, they appear to be getting more uniform (based on this sample) and later movies don’t see the massive peaks we see earlier in the century. There are twelve 3-hour epics in there, but most of them are before 1984. Six of the seven 200+ minuters are 1984 or earlier too.

I wondered how it compared against Oscar-winning films, and an hour or so (and lots of coffee) later…

The shortest film which won the Best Picture Oscar was 1955’s Marty, at 91 minutes. The longest was Gone With The Wind, in 1939, which also picks up the longest running time in the Top 250 list.

Now, the Oscar voters clearly like their films long, as the average length of the winning films runs to a staggering 138 minutes, a full 11 minutes longer than the Top 250 list. Adding in the trendline, the average length is also increasing.

Now, as I say, these are all very specific samples we’re looking at, so the above should be taken with a suitably large pinch of salt. But it seems that films *are* getting longer.

Me? I like a nice, short 90 minuter. Maybe up to 100 minutes. Looking at the Top 250 list, we can see that 43 out of the 250 come in at or below 100 minutes. In that list, we’ve got (in no particular order), some of my favourite films:

  • The Princess Bride
  • Fargo
  • Wall-E
  • Toy Story
  • My Neighbour Totoro
  • Monsters, Inc

What’s your favourite film, and how long is it? Does it clock in below the magic 100 minute mark?

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

8 thoughts on “The perfect movie”

  1. Gone With the Wind is one of my favourite books but the length of the film is so off putting I’ve never actually finished the thing. 90 minutes is about all my Internet-frazzled attention span can take 🙂

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