≡ Menu

Hump Day Have Your Say: Are Films Too Long?



Recently the subject of the duration of films being released has been floating around the film blogosphere.  I decided to do a bit of research on the topic of film length.  Some researchers actually had complied a list of the top fifty films of each year since the 1910’s  via IMDB.  Their research indicates that average film length has remained fairly consistent at about 127 minutes since the 1960’s.  Check out this handy dandy chart below to get an idea of what i am talking about.






Similarly highly popular films such as Titanic and LOTR The Return of the King run much longer than average length and people still enjoy them immensely.  What reason could there be for all the complaining about film length?  We recently watched The Hobbit 169 minutes and Django Unchained 165 minutes and the length of those films did not bother me in the least.  I have several hypothesis regarding the complaints about film length.

1.) Short attention spans: Folks are so use to multitasking and being attached to electronic devices that the idea of just watching a film for 2 hours overwhelms them.  Even when I set my iPhone to vibrate it seems like it goes off every ten minutes when I am watching a film.  I am going to try and shut it off completely to cut down on distractions.

2.)  The ending credits:  It seems like the credits go on forever.  As films get more complex the list of people involved in the making of films grows and grows.  Yes IMDB counts the ending credits toward its calculation of film length.  That is not even taking into consideration the popular after credits extra scene that is included with some films.

3.) Giant tubs of popcorn and liters of cola:  How any human could consume a bucket of soda and not have to use the bathroom for two hours is beyond me.  As the sizes of drinks and food increases so does the complaining about film length.

4.)  The lack of an intermission.  The last main stream film to have an intermission was Gandhi in 1982.  Studios in an effort to cram in an extra screening a day have done away with what was once commonplace in longer films.  Why not have a ten or fifteen minute intermission so people could use the bathroom stretch their legs or purchase another gallon of iced tea and a seven dollar bag of skittles?

5.) Bad movies:  While I don’t mind sitting through a long film that I am enjoying, long films that are terrible drive me to distraction.  I had a hard time sitting through 146 minutes of War Horse and and equally hard time sitting through Hugo which was actually an average length film.  Its often not so much the length of the film as it is your opinion of the film.


Whats your take on film length?  Are films nowadays too long or have we just become unacostemed to sitting quietly in the dark for 127 minutes?  Or perhaps you have another idea about the subject that I missed completely .



would you tell Steve McQueen that The Sand Pebbles was too long at 182 minutes?


I got the chart for this article from http://www.slashfilm.com/by-the-numbers-the-length-of-feature-films/

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Morgan R. Lewis January 9, 2013, 1:49 pm

    First off, good examination of the actual average length of films. It’s nice to know that a lot of the “things are getting too long” is just pointing out some prominent cases.

    Second… the point about intermissions is very well taken. I don’t eat or drink when I watch a movie in the theatre, but even so, I’m usually feeling some discomfort by the end of a two-and-a-half hour film. Even if my bladder isn’t full, just sitting for that long can get uncomfortable.

    I don’t mind dealing with the discomfort if the movie actually makes it worth my while… but it had better do so. If I feel like twenty minutes of the film was wasted, then it’s going to irritate me that it ran into uncomfortable lengths unnecessarily — even if the movie is otherwise good.

  • Adam January 9, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Hey Morgan thanks for stopping by. I agree lets bring back intermission. I imagine the theater would end up making some more cash as well.

  • Adam January 9, 2013, 1:56 pm

    also the not eating or drinking is probably a good idea for your health and your wallet as well as not disrupting the film. Sadly, I find it hard to resist getting some popcorn.

  • ckckred January 9, 2013, 3:04 pm

    I’ve sat through plenty of long movies like The Godfather and Magnolia and have been glued to the screen the entire time. I agree with you that it really hurts if the movie is bad or disinteresting.

    • Adam January 9, 2013, 3:12 pm

      Checkered I think that might be the biggest factor of all. However, I have seen lots of people complaining about the length of films lately. I got the misses the LOTR extended Blu-ray box set for Christmas and those are some loooooong films. I however wish they were even longer. Thanks for stopping by.

  • scottydynamite January 9, 2013, 3:33 pm

    The only time I complain is when I am sitting there with my kids and they get antzy in the pantzy, otherwise be as long as you like but do not bore me to death and waste my time with useless film, aka Borehorse and Boogo.

    • Adam January 9, 2013, 3:43 pm

      Scott I think they actually were marketing Hugo as a kids movie, what poor kid would willing sit through that film I will never know.

  • Colin Biggs January 9, 2013, 5:29 pm

    In my mind, if the film works, it can never be too long. The Hobbit however…

    • Adam January 9, 2013, 5:52 pm

      See thats what I’m talking about Colin you had some criticism about the film but not simply the duration of the film. Length is irrelevant it’s the quality that matters. Well at least that is what the other two guys tell their lady friends. ;-)

  • Nostra January 10, 2013, 1:18 am

    Interesting stats, which are different from my expectations. I don’t mind lengthy movies, but are often happy if they are only 90 minutes…especially if I want to watch one before I go to bed. I think intermissions are a good idea if they are close to 3 hours. Especially if you have a late screening it can be hard to stay awake and a 10 minute break to walk around would help. Great topic!

    • Adam January 10, 2013, 8:22 am

      Nostra those stats were based on the fifty top rated films of each year. I imagine the durations would actually be a bit shorter if all films had been taken into consideration. Lots of short comedies and rom coms most likely not included. Whereas Oscar nominated films often have longer run times than the norm.

  • Chris January 10, 2013, 1:21 am

    Sorry to be a debbie downer, re. Ghandi, there was an intermission during Saving Private Ryan, when I saw it in 1998. Same for Titanic. It was a mainstream cinema. Maybe it’s different for US and Europe :)

    Good question, looking at the running times on IMDB of the best picture contenders, you would definitely think the trend will continue: Django Unchained, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, are all at least 2½ hours.

    • Adam January 10, 2013, 8:29 am

      Your not being a Debbie Downer Chris ;-) that is actually good to know. While I have thankfully never seen Titanic I did not hear about it having any sort of intermission here in the states.

      Agreed there seems to be a strange dichotomy where people complain about film length but longer films seem to garner the majority of the awards and praise.

  • Jaina January 10, 2013, 4:16 am

    Backing Chris up here, I remember there being a choice for Titanic with/without intermission screenings down my neck of the woods too. Thought it bizarre. I just can’t deal with breaking up a film like that! Oh and I think a lot of Bollywood films shown in the UK still have intermissions, as they’re renowned for being long.

    In my goal to watch as many classic films as I can, I often find myself getting put off when I only have a couple of hours to spare. Why? They’re all well over 2 hours themselves. Films from the 50s. So, I don’t think it’s a new trend. But it’s becoming something that is getting more acceptable.

    Personally, I don’t mind long films. As long as they’re long for a reason and maintain my attention, go for it.

  • Adam January 10, 2013, 8:34 am

    Jaina let me get this straight you don’t have to pay $700 a month for your families insurance, and if you get sick they don’t say tough luck. In addition to that your a thousand times less likely to get shot by one of your neighbors and you get films with intermissions. WTH !!!!

    The only time I have seen an intermission is as you mentioned when I was watching and older “classic” film and at that point I am at my house anyway.

    You know what would be nice is to have the option to see a longer film with an intermission. Sort of the way you can choose to see a film in either 2D or 3D.

  • Tracy January 10, 2013, 10:29 am

    I don’t normally take issue with the length of a movie. However, it seems that lately I haven’t wanted to make the commitment to sit in a theater for long stretches. I haven’t seen The Hobbit or Django yet for this reason.

    My cinema viewing partner in crime however feels like she’s getting ripped off if a movie clock in at less than 120min. Due to ticket prices and concessions, she feels that she should at least get her money’s worth with running time.

    I thanked all that was holy that This is 40 wasn’t any longer that what it was. It felt like it was 4 hours and I probably would have walked out if it had been any longer.

  • Adam January 10, 2013, 11:21 am

    So does your cinema viewing partner have a sweet ass blog like you do?

    I think Mark would agree with your assessment of this is 40 and he got to watch it at home

    • Tracy January 10, 2013, 3:26 pm

      Adam…you are too sweet. Sweet ass blog…..I think I’m going to change my tagline to that. I believe I commented on something that Mark posted about This is 40. Being a 40 year old myself, I found the film entirely too boring and tedious.

      My partner in crime is my Aunt…she does not have a blog :) The woman doesn’t even read mine. I should be offended right?

      • Adam January 10, 2013, 3:52 pm

        I would not be offended I think my mom has maybe visited this site once and my wife doesn’t read it with any regularity. But it’s fun to ride them about not reading and commenting. ;-)

        • Tracy January 10, 2013, 4:11 pm

          I have one friend that I rib constantly about it. Especially when he mentions something I’ve already posted. At least my Dad reads it….and always comments as “Dad”. No secret there I guess :)

          • Adam January 10, 2013, 4:34 pm

            How much of a coup would it be to steal your Dad from your site? That might be my new site goal for the year. ;-)

  • Dylan January 10, 2013, 12:51 pm

    I would tell McQueen to put on some undies…

    I’m *generally* opposed to run times over ~145 minutes, regardless of the era. Yes, it’s about quality over runtime, and I love many, many films that eclipse that time – I just think that a story can usually be effectively told in that time or less.

    It has nothing to do with the theater, though – I’m just as averse to a 2.5 hour runtime at home as I am in the theater.

  • Adam January 10, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Dylan the king of Cool is too cool for undies lol I’m shocked they put that pic in Life magazine

    I would tend to agree that most but not all stories can be effectively told in 145 minutes. With exceptions of course. Besides with the advent of Blu-ray directors cut super special editions, those longer versions could still be viewed.

    Not 100% sold that the theater has nothing to do with it. Watched the Hobbit at this high end Cinepolis theater in a leather recliner while a waiter fed us Stone IPA’s. I think it made the long run time easier to deal with.

    Always happy to have you visit our site :-)

  • Joe January 11, 2013, 6:13 am

    Hey Adam,
    It is unfortunate that film length has increased over time because I think that many fans can agree that the quality of the movies has not necessarily increased and by quality I do not mean visual quality. Sometimes it seems tat we are trying to be fooled into feeling that we are getting what we paid for at a movie because of the film’s length and it’s production budget or CGI quality. Sounds like a great theater that you saw The Hobbit in. I have a feeling that place made a pretty penny in IPA profits that day. Great subject. Have a good weekend.

  • Tim The Film Guy January 11, 2013, 8:48 am

    Some films can be as long as they like but others just cant get away with it, non epics can’t be longer than 2:30 hrs otherwise they make people uncomfortable in their seats

  • Rae January 13, 2013, 10:41 pm

    I actually remember there being an intermission for the Titanic, but then again that was when I was like 9 or 10 years old, so it’s quite possible I’m remembering that incorrectly. Anyway, I agree. I tend to not notice the length of a film unless the content bores me. If it’s a good film that captures my attention, then I personally find myself wanting more, even if the film was already close to 3 hours long s it was. On the other hand, there are times where a movie is only an hour and 45 or 50 minutes long and I find myself constantly looking at the time on my phone.

%d bloggers like this: