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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What are the greatest short movies?

Today’s question comes from reader doa766, who says:

I always pay atention to movies running times and it’s seems that nowadays every really great movie or important in some way it’s at least around two hours long, so the question is which short movies (around 90 minutes or less) from the last 25 years you find truly excellent, like you would give them 5/5 or Oscar worthy?

going through my 300+ DVD/blu ray collection I can only name Lost in Translation, Toy Story 2 and Eastern Promises.

What do you think? What are the greatest short movies?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Eric

    Steven Soderbergh’s “The Limey” is one of his greatest films, a skillfully directed and edited thriller that clocks in a brisk 89 minutes, with not one wasted minute. Not to mention that it features the always awesome Terence Stamp in what might be his finest performance.

  • JoshDM

    That horror short that used to run on WPIX all the time in the 70’s where some guy is listening to a reel-to-reel tape alone in a room, and it comes to life and eats him. I think it was actually directed by someone who is particularly famous for horror these days. Like Raimi or Darabont or someone.

  • RyanT

    Well most old school animated Disney films came in under the 90 minutes mark such as Aladdin, Lion King, and Academy Award Best Picture nominee Beauty & the Beast.

    Most comedies SHOULD err in the side of brevity though I can only think of Shaun of the Dead and Bring It On which both clocks in at just under 100 minutes. Though Saved! was 92 minutes.

    500 Days of Summer is 95 minutes and the wonderful Once clocks in at the shortest time of them all with 85 minutes.

  • Hank Graham

    “The Man Who Planted Trees” One of the most memorable films of the last 25 years, and only 30 minutes long. It did win the Oscar, and every other award it was eligible for.

    “Toy Story” was only 81 minutes long.

    Everything else I can think of is outside of the last 25 years.

  • “There will come soft rains”. An animated, russian short film after Bradbury’s short story.

  • Ann Elise

    Here are some short and sweet movies from my collection that get my 5 out of 5 type of approval.
    81 minutes – Run Lola Run
    84 Chicken Run
    89 Smokes Signals
    90 Angel-a
    90 Real Women Have Curves
    92 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
    93 Broken English
    95 500 Days of Summer
    95 Cold Comfort Farm
    95 Dear Frankie
    95 Enchanted April
    95 Rabbit Proof Fence
    I tried to stick to under 95 minutes but these also struck me as concise great movies:
    96 La Haine
    96 A History of Violence
    96 Eastern Promises
    96 Juno
    97 Little Voice
    97 The Dish
    It’s interesting to see that a lot of my favorite, most viscerally moving films are the shorter ones, that had tighter budgets and less film to “waste”. When I checked out my collection for this QOTD, I found a lot of big budget movies I wish were shorter, that would have much better, if more thoroughly edited.
    I wonder how the quality of editing will change as more indie films use digital and can shoot more footage.

  • Jester

    Toy Story is clearly the single best 90 minutes or less movie, but it doesn’t really count since it’s not live action.

    For my money, The Man From Earth is the best live-action movie under 90 minutes. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the best if you make the limit 91. ;-)

  • NoName

    Cashback was a good short movie.

  • Jester

    Digging into this question a little, I discovered that Before Sunset is 80 minutes long, so there’s at least one Oscar-nominated screenplay among modern under-90-minutes movies.

    I personally liked The Man From Earth more than Before Sunset, but the latter would probably be my second favorite movie in this rather specialized category. ;-)

  • gensing

    Like Ann, I’m also noticing that most of my favorites are 100 minutes or less. If we’re sticking to 90 minutes or less I’d include “The Station Agent”.

    And Eric – I never would have thought ‘The Limey’ was so short. It definitely belongs on the list.

  • Jurgan

    The Nightmare Before Christmas

    Haven’t we discussed this before? Maybe not as a full thread, but at some point in comments at least I’m sure this has come up (I think someone actually suggested outlawing movies shorter than 90 minutes).

  • Kelly Reichardt’s most recent films clock in at a much shorter time than most of those listed above. Her gems include “Old Joy” (2006, 76 mins.) and “Wendy and Lucy” (2008, 80 mins.).

  • Layalally

    Ghost in the Shell–I believe it’s 82 minutes. One of my favorite science fiction films of all time.

  • vucubcaquix
  • Paul

    “George Lucas in Love” in which George Lucas is in love and all his friends from college are the inspirations for characters in Star Wars.

    Nine minutes.

  • Boingo

    I never paid too much attention to feature length
    (whatever the parameters) running times. The question
    immediately brought to mind REAL short films.

    In high school, the class was shown on 16mm, a B&W
    short that left an impression (probably won’t in this day and age).I forgot the title. It was of a civil war
    soldier who by luck escapes a hanging (rope breaks),
    and he evades capture. After a harrowing escape,
    the climax has him running (if I remember correctly)
    in an emotional slo-mo towards his wife,who has open
    arms, only to cut back to the instant in which he
    never did escape the hanging (CaChunk!!!). Sorry
    ’bout the spoiler.

  • Boingo

    Again I forgot the name. What was that classic they
    play around Christmas about the couple who is strapped
    for funds, in which one buys a beautiful hairclip or
    brush (wuzzat it?)? And the woman cuts her hair and sells it to fund her gift. Oooh-I admit, I was moved
    in my romantic circuit.

  • amanohyo

    The Gift of the Magi (original story by O. Henry) is probably the Holiday short you remember, Boingo, and the movie in your earlier comment is no doubt based on An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce.

    These are textbook answers, but I honestly like Two Men and a Wardrobe by Polanski (even better than some of his later movies), and Buster Keaton in The General. My favorite Pixar short is still For the Birds – it has a sweet message, no dialogue, ambiguous gendering, and those little birds are hilarious. If Dumbo counts as a short film (64 min), it would have to be my all time favorite though (narrowly edging out Totoro due to the awesome pink elephants on parade sequence).

    I am partial to Run Lola Run also (it certainly handles its “extra lives” concept a lot more skillfully than Scott Pilgrim)… but it’s no Dumbo. Cutest non-speaking character ever.

  • Boingo

    Thanks,amanohyo. You’re right. Great mental references
    or however you came up with the titles.

  • Boingo

    Interesting-“An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge”
    is featured on Youtube, with a special intro by
    Rod Serilng.Enjoy.

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