The Weinstein Company/Lionsgate
Long movies can be tough. Even if they're supposed to be great, it can be hard to find two or even three hours to sit down and watch a lengthy, drawn-out masterpiece. In an age of short attention spans, it's best to keep movies as brief as possible. As a result, many people wind up looking for 90 minute movies. They're the equivalent of a couple episodes of TV, instead of an entire season.
Short movies are also much more likely to hold your attention because they have very little time to stall. They have to get right to the story that they're trying to tell and waste no time fluffing about. If you're likely to fall asleep while watching a movie on the couch, these movies may be better for you than, say, Lord of the Rings.
If you haven't seen Toy Story, you should probably stop reading this right now and go watch it. Not only is it Pixar's first film, it's also one of their shortest. At 81 minutes, it's a perfect watch no matter what mood you're in.
This movie single-handedly ushered in an entire era of computer-based animation and managed to be thoroughly compelling as well. The film tells the story of a favorite toy being replaced and manages to make that story a resonant one about usefulness and obsolescence. It's a great movie, even before you realize Tom Hanks is in it.
Warner Independent Studios
Although it's the second film in a trilogy, Before Sunset is also a great meditation on how love ages. The first film in the trilogy tells the story of a meeting between two young, romantic people. This second film picks their story up nine years later and works because it's got a bitter edge that the first film lacks.
The film is basically told in real time, as the two central characters have what amounts to an 80-minute conversation. By the end of it, they've fallen back in love with one another. What makes Before Sunset so special is the way it depicts the realities of love — warts and all.
Westerns are often believed to be a genre filled with movies that are slow and dull. There are too many shoot-outs, too much witty banter, and way too many landscape shots. In Slow West, though, all of that is trimmed away. What's left is a short, compelling movie about a kid looking for his lost love and the bounty hunter who accompanies him.
Oftentimes, the simplest premises are the best. While there are a few complications along the way in Slow West, the goals remain very clear. It's not the kind of movie that you need a diagram to follow. It's also filled with sweeping vistas and plenty of witty banter, even at its reduced running time.
20th Century Fox
Look, you probably already know what Borat is. It's Sacha Baron Cohen's pinnacle. He pretends to be a man from Kazakhstan who has come to America to film a documentary about what makes America great. Along the way, he does a variety of hilarious and embarrassing things and goes a long way to show why America isn't so great.
Borat is a wonderful piece of satire. It's clever and fresh and original and short. Sacha's subsequent projects were all a little less surprising, in part because of how original this one was. He came out too hot with Borat, and it became hard for him to live up to his first big project.
The Weinstein Company
Six years after Ryan Coogler made Fruitvale Station, he made Black Panther. That's how meteoric his rise has been. This film, starring Michael B. Jordan, follows a black man who was gunned down by police on the last day of his life. In doing so, it offers a moving tribute to that man's humanity.
Although Fruitvale Station is short, it's not as light-hearted as most of the movies on this list. In fact, it's pretty heartbreaking. This film packs its punch so effectively in part because it is so short. Had the movie been longer, it might not have delivered in its final moments so well.
High Noon is a tight, controlled Western that doesn't waste anytime. Although it's from the 1950s, it still holds up remarkably well today. It tells the story of a Marshal in a small Western town who's set to retire when an old nemesis is released from jail. Instead of running, he stays and fights, much to the chagrin of those who love him.
From there, the story is basically a tense thriller. The Marshal tries to find people willing to fight for him, and mostly fails to do so. As a result, he's left to fight alone. The climactic shootout is well worth the brief wait.
Since director Taika Waititi made What We Do in the Shadows, he's gone on to make Thor: Ragnarok. That movie still stands as the funniest Marvel movie, and What We Do in the Shadows may be even funnier. It's a mockumentary film that follows the lives of vampires as they try to navigate modern society.
As off-the-wall as that may sound, the film behind it is incredibly sturdy. It's the perfect combination of self-aware and silly. No film from Taika takes itself too seriously, and this movie is no exception. There's a series set to run on FX this year with the same name but watch the movie first to be safe.
The cast of Zombieland is enough reason to watch it on its own. The 88-minute runtime is just another reason on the list. The flick stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin with a featured performance from Bill Murray. It can't get much better than that.
The film is a comedy set in an apocalypse filled with zombies, one where four misfits get together in order to survive. It's undoubtedly the funniest movie ever made about an apocalypse. It's also a stylish, deeply exciting way to spend just under an hour and a half. Now that there's a sequel to the film in the works, 2019 is the perfect year to catch up on the original.
Wes Anderson is a director who likes to have everything in a very particular place. His arrangements are carefully considered. For that reason, stop-motion animation is a perfect vehicle for his particular set of skills though he mostly relies on live-action for his movies. But for Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes found a story worth telling with animation.
The film is a funny, heartfelt look at a family of foxes. The head of that family, the titular Mr. Fox, can't stop stealing from a local farmer. He refuses to settle down. As voiced by George Clooney, Mr. Fox's struggles with his own nature are both amusing and weirdly existential. That's the power of West Anderson.
Stand By Me is, first and foremost, a brilliant coming-of-age film. It tells the story of four boys who discover the dead body of another young boy. Although that serves as the film's hook, Stand By Me is really about what it's like to be a young man.
The people we meet as we grow up have a profound ability to change us, even if we don't keep in touch with them. Those friendships are bone deep. Stand By Me is a moving film, even though it's not a hugely plot-rich one. Watching these four boys hang out with one another provides more than enough entertainment.
Mistress America is a very New York kind of movie. It follows a college freshman who befriends her older, soon to be step-sister in New York City. The freshman quickly becomes entranced by her step-sister's lifestyle, and the two eventually become deeply entwined.
The second half of Mistress America is among the most entertaining pieces of filmmaking that director Noah Baumbach has ever created. That's thanks in large part to Greta Gerwig's magnetic performance. She's a remarkable talent both in front of and behind the camera. Her magnetism carries the entire movie, and it's especially evident in the crazy, madcap final section.
When you consider the epic scope of the Lion King, it's hard to believe it comes in under 90 minutes. It's basically Hamlet, after all! The animated movie packs a lot into those minutes, though. Telling the story of a young prince who comes to blame himself for his father's death, the film sounds more heavy-handed than it ends up being.
In fact, the film is remarkably light on its feet and features a number of wonderful songs. There's a reason it's been a blockbuster stage musical for almost 20 years. It tells a timeless story and manages to be pretty entertaining along the way. What more could you want?
Office Space has become a cult classic in the years since its release, and justifiably so. The film follows a group of office workers who are fed up with their jobs. There are few funnier ways to spend 90 minutes than watching Office Space.
The film also features an all-star cast that includes Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, and Gary Cole. It's a movie about the doldrums of working in an office, and in that way, it may never age. If you've ever felt unfulfilled at work, this movie is for you. Even if you like your job, there's still plenty to love in Office Space.
Peter Dinklage has had something of a renaissance as a result of Game of Thrones. Before all that, though, he was the star of a modest indie called The Station Agent. The film follows Peter's character as he moves to New Jersey after inheriting a railway depot.
Ostensibly, this film is about trains. In reality, though, it's about connections between people and the situations that bring them together. It's not a romantic comedy and it's not particularly dramatic. Instead, it just feels lived in and gives the entire cast a chance to shine in unshowy roles. This was one of the first indications that Peter Dinklage was a star.
In 2008 when the first Cloverfield was released, the idea of an entire universe built around the film seemed far-fetched. This first film was intentionally small-scale. It was a "found footage" movie, and it only gave viewers a few glimpses of the monsters that had descended upon New York City.
In its 90-minute runtime, the scary movie tells the story of a group of young New Yorkers who get swept up in an apocalypse. Part of the appeal of the movie is how on the ground it feels. You're not bogged down with lore or mythology. All you know is that the world is ending, and these people have to try and make their way through it.
The shortest film on this list is also among the most confusing, believe it or not. It tells the story of engineers who have accidentally invented a time machine. Eventually, they begin to travel through time and begin to realize the consequences of their actions.
There are plenty of movies about time travel, but Primer may be the one that works the hardest to explain what time travel actually means. As a result, things get pretty complicated pretty quickly. If you're into watching a movie about the science of time travel, Primer is absolutely the right movie for you. It may seem like it requires a knowledge of complex math, but it's easier to grasp than it seems.
A fair few Disney movies manage to keep themselves under 90 minutes, but Mulan uses those minutes to great effect. Telling the story of a Chinese woman who decides to take her father's place in the army, the film busts gender stereotypes from the word go.
In addition to its rebellious female heroine, Mulan's song output is also much better than many remember. "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is as catchy as any Disney song ever written, and it's just one of several great songs from the film. Add in Eddie Murphy as a loveable sidekick pre-Shrek, and you have a recipe for success.
Animated films have dominated this list, but most of them have been American-made. My Neighbor Totoro hails from Japan, and more specifically from acclaimed director Hiyao Miyazaki. The film follows a young girl as she settles into a new home and meets the spirits that live nearby.
Although it may seem more ethereal than American animated films, My Neighbor Totoro is thoroughly charming from beginning to end. It's not just for kids, though. The film is heartwarming and sweet in a way that never grates. It's the kind of movie that you can watch with kids without losing your mind.