Film critic Roger Ebert once said that, “No good movie is long enough and no bad movie is short enough.” Well we’re about to put that first half to the test, as we’ve got a list of films that pack a ton of quality into a running time of under 90 minutes. So if you want a good movie in a seemingly short time, the titles we’re about to share fit the bill!
Red Eye (2005)
Wes Craven’s air travel thriller sees a seemingly cute encounter between two passengers (Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy) pivots into a taut fight for survival. In a short span of time, charm turns to cruelty, and flattery turns to fear, as McAdams and Murphy match wits while confined on an airplane. And yes, this is the same Wes Craven that made horror hits out of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Stand By Me (1986)
One of the greatest Stephen King movies of all time, Stand By Me follows Gordie (Wil Wheaton) and his best friends on a journey through the woods. Of course, this is King Country, and this adolescent dramedy is a mix of bonding and danger, all sparked by a body found in the woods.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is lighting quick with its wit and action. But believe it or not, this 2000s family movie/comedy gem led by George Clooney comes in under the 90 minute mark; which allows every gag and every set piece to really pack a punch.
Surely the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams’ Airplane! isn’t shorter than 90 minutes? Well, indeed it is, despite this classic comedy being so packed full of gags the chaos feels a bit longer. And don’t call us Shirley, but do check out this parody of the very serious drama Zero Hour!
Phone Booth (2002)
Colin Farrell goes through the worst day of his life in Phone Booth, and the tension is so spectacular that you’d be inclined not to notice that it’s a pretty brief run. Who knew that Kiefer Sutherland’s threatening voice, and the confined location that gives the movie its title, would be so effective?
Office Space (1999)
You may not have the minimum pieces of Flair, and you may have forgotten the cover sheet to your TPS report. But if you’ve got time for a slightly extended lunch break, you’ve got time to watch Mike Judge’s Office Space.
Toy Story (1995)
“To Infinity, and Beyond!” seems like a long time. However, in the world of Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story, it all happens in just a little over an hour. So if you or any other friends and family members need a shortcut to adventure, you’ve got a friend in this title accessible through a Disney+ subscription.
Run Lola Run (1998)
If you think about it in the right context, you’re getting three movies for the price of one with Run Lola Run, aka Lola Rennt. As Franka Potente relives her efforts to try and stop her on-screen boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) from robbing a supermarket, each runthrough has its own challenges. Fate is fickle, and each pulse pounding variant makes up a third of this brief but fantastic film.
Alfred Hitchcock’s title as the “master of suspense” is absolutely enforced in Rope, as the director of Psycho and The Birds made what looks like a single take movie. Through clever edits, and taut performances by Farley Granger, John Dall, and Jimmy Stewart, this howcatchem drips with nerves and style.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Prepare to crank your day up to 11, dear readers. This Is Spinal Tap’s classic mockumentary about the band that gave its name to rock and roll history is another member of this very specific club. Whenever you’re not laughing, you’ll probably be singing along to the stellar rock-based soundtrack of the band's original works.
Attack The Block (2011)
Believe, Bruv! Attack the Block lives up to its reputation as a non-stop crowd pleaser, and it does so in a relatively short length of cinema. Joe Cornish’s sci-fi/comedy, with John Boyega leading the charge, speeds along its merry way, with plenty of menace and laughter to spare.
The Producers (1967)
How lucky is any director to have a feature length debut like Mel Brooks’ The Producers? From start to finish Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder’s antics only get more frantically funny, with new players adding something to the recipe as they come on board. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted from the movies.
Child’s Play (1988)
At the start of Charles Lee Ray’s reign of terror, Child’s Play delivered a horror movie that actually hid his presence for quite a bit of its under 90 minute runtime. Even if you’re a die hard Chucky fan, it’s still amazing to revisit this suspenseful fright-time classic and imagine how audiences must have felt when the other Good Guy branded shoe dropped.
If you’ve ever wanted the Cloverfield timeline explained, a good place to start is the 2008 titan that started it all. Director Matt Reeves’ introduction to the world of Large Scale Aggressors kicked off an anthology/multiverse, and it did so with a close to real time struggle to escape New York.
Duck Soup (1933)
Between shorter lengths and black and white images, movies like Duck Soup are sometimes seen as quaint artifacts of a bygone era. And yet, the Marx Brothers legacy of lunacy continues to survive because not only did they understand comedy, they wielded that genre like an expert sword handler. Except replace that sword with a bicycle horn.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Falling in love happens pretty quickly in a Disney fairytale, and Beauty and the Beast only proves that. This landmark animated film that became the first of its medium to be nominated for Best Picture, it’s not hard to see just why that was the case. A tale as old as time, it has earned the place of holding such historic feats.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki has been known to blend whimsy and realism in his films, with the results yielding classics like My Neighbor Totoro. You won’t be checking your watch as you get drawn into this gorgeous world, but trust us when we tell you it’s actually a pretty speedy movie. Heads up though: your plushie collection stands a good chance of expanding each time you watch this one.
Black Dynamite (2009)
Playing like an Airplane! style take on the blaxploitation genre, Black Dynamite sends up movies like Shaft, while also paying tribute. Michael Jai White’s title-inspiring crimefighter is one tough mother, but he isn’t above pulling some ridiculous stunts and gut busting dialogue.
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the WereRabbit (2005)
Aardman Animation’s classic Wallace and Gromit series was built on short journeys into high adventure. So the fact that Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit went feature length, but didn’t forget its charms, speaks volumes to the benefit of quicker paced movies that do it right.
March of the Penguins (2005)
The good news is that not only is March of the Penguins adorable, it’s a quick sit. The bad news is that with all of the fuzzy cuteness and Morgan Freeman’s expert narration there are bits of sadness. So goes the world of nature, but that’s part of why this documentary is so impactful with viewers.
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Is it a Halloween movie? Is it one of the best Christmas movies? Who cares when Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas runs only a little longer than a broadcast TV special. Only instead of commercials, it’s songs and striking visuals that see the adventures of Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) clocking in a bit longer than traditional competitors.
Found footage seems to lend itself well as a genre for quick, intense filmmaking. Chronicle shows us the super adventures of Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell), and Steve (Michael B. Jordan), after they gain random superpowers. The scale and scope of this Josh Trank directed film made an impressive debut back in the day, and it still holds up.
Liar Liar (1997)
It’s hard to keep track of time when you’re laughing so hard it hurts. Already a blazing hot talent when he made Liar Liar, Jim Carrey delivered an amazing performance reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon. So if you need a really good laugh in under half an hour, this recommendation should please the court.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)
Before Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer became an iconic TV series, it was a movie that showed the world a very different version of Sunnydale’s protector (Kristy Swanson). Whether you consider it canon or not, you can’t go wrong with Paul Reubens goofing off as a vampire who seems to take a lot longer to die that his brethren.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the best Batman movie, full stop. Operating in the realm of The Animated Series, this sub-90 minute drama keeps all the superhero action, and amps up the emotional stakes. Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Dana Delaney couldn’t have done it better.
The Lady From Shanghai (1947)
Orson Wells’ noir thriller The Lady From Shanghai is a twisted web of deceit in which an Irish sailor (Wells) is roped into what’s supposed to be a fraudulent murder. The reality becomes something new altogether, leading to a literal funhouse maze of an ending, sharply concluding this criminal entertainment.
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
Don Bluth’s animation style and panache are in full effect with The Secret of NIMH. As Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman) embarks on an epic quest to save her sick son Timothy, her adventure into the worlds of animals and humanity is as surprising as it is beautiful. Lush and haunting, this is one of those non-Disney animated classics that just might surprise you.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. (2010)
You know the supposed mountain folk that are typically the menace behind any teen horror drama? Tucker & Dale vs. Evil challenges us to imagine a pair of such people (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) as a kinder, gentler sort of cabin dweller who just happen to have their supposed victims stumble into danger. In other words, you’re kind of rooting against the kids in this one.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
The true life death of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan) is chronicled in director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station. Chronicling the last day of Grant’s life, this historical drama captures a real tragedy through the lens of cinema in heartbreaking detail.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Believe it or not, it may take more time to work out your rankings of the best Little Mermaid songs than to watch the actual movie itself. Though you could also use some of that time to argue whether or not “Les Poissons” deserved to be cut from the live-action remake; as this movie is the only one that has it.
David Cronenberg is known for some of the most horrific body horror known to our species. Videodrome is perhaps one of the cruelest, as a television executive (James Woods) gets drawn into a world of conspiracy, death, and seduction. Prepare for some of the trippiest visuals, and a couple of gross outs here and there.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Hail to the king, baby! The Evil Dead runs a tight and bloody ship through its brisk clip, as Bruce Campbell’s Ash is introduced to the world of the Deadites. The most deadly serious of the series, the frights come fast and steady; even without as much quippy action from Ash in his origin story.
The next time you want to be entertained in a pinch, fear not, as there’s always a movie that could get the job done. Though if you want a really great film to accomplish that task, look no further than the library of wonders we’ve provided above.